2017 Creative Music Workshop: 7/27-8/4

Naropa Summer Writing Program 2015, Photo by Billy Thieme

By Paul Fowler, Assistant Professor and Chair, Music Department

In the summer of 2016, I headed to Halifax for Jerry Granelli’s Creative Music Workshop (CMW)—an intensive summer program that has been a flagship education program of the Halifax Jazz Festival for the past 21 years.

Despite my experience with this sort of thing—workshops and the like—I was still quite nervous. I’ve been an improvising musician for about 25 years, but “free” improvisation or “spontaneous composition”—as its called in CMW—was a new field of study.

Sure, I’ve played jazz; I’ve played free; I’ve composed songs on the spot; I’ve improvised with actors and dancers. I’ve played incredibly un-free music as well—where the musical target is beyond human reach. But, there’s always been a mystique to this “free improv” thing, and in my musical travels, no one has ever handed me the keys, nor revealed the secret door.

But my experience at CMW was quite the opposite. There was no secret door nor keys, but there was the utmost attention. A fierce directive from the faculty to uncover the freshness in each sound and each musician. Attention was the discussion and the gateway to learning how to maintain clarity of musical thought, expression and a boundless care for the composition that was forming and un-forming by our sharing of space and sound. 

CMW is a practice in awareness, in subservience to music, in cutting through fear, in the development of confidence.

Naropa University will be hosting a Creative Music Workshop this summer from July 27th-August 4th:

Creative Music Workshop is a 9-day intensive that places non-stylistic improvisation at the center of musical learning. Students discover their confidence, discernment and wakefulness through classes in creative process, ensemble, like instruments, meditation, and body-mind practices. For the last 5 days of the intensive, students and faculty present public concerts in the evening, featuring “spontaneous compositions” and works devised during the workshop.

Faculty and Staff (alphabetical):


  • 7/27-8/4: 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. each day, with lunch on your own from 1:00-2:30 p.m.
  • 7/31-8/4: 7:30 p.m. – concert

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