Date of Award

Summer 8-22-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



First Advisor

Alejandro Cremaschi

Second Advisor

Andrew Cooperstock

Third Advisor

David Korevaar

Fourth Advisor

Daphne Leong

Fifth Advisor

Keith Waters

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Although improvisation today is often associated with jazz or contemporary music, it played an important role in Western Art Music performances until recently. For many great composers of the past, improvisation was a central element of the music-making process. Often, pianists and composers would include improvised portions of music in their concerts or would alter their compositions in real time during performances. Many factors led to the decline of this type of music, including composers’ desire for more control with regard to their compositions and the advent of recording technology. As technological advances came to allow for note-perfect recordings, improvisations became less popular. Meanwhile, increased focus on technical accuracy in piano teaching resulted in a decrease in improvisation being taught to students.

This paper asserts that a revitalization of improvisation teaching is needed and proposes an outline for a new method book that could be used to teach improvisation to modern-day students. In particular, stylistic improvisation—improvisation in the styles of composers or eras—has innumerable benefits for keyboard students, promoting greater artistic individuality, analytical skills, more versatile technique, enhanced memory, better aural perception, and decreased stage fright, among other benefits. Such a method could change the pedagogical landscape of piano teaching, generating renewed interest in this highly valuable and endlessly rewarding art.