Piano Lessons

Professor Earl MacDonald uses the following course outline when teaching freshman and sophomore-level jazz piano lessons at the University of Connecticut. It includes the elements comprising each piano lesson, as well as the grading scheme.

Secondary Applied Music (Laboratory)

Jazz Piano Lessons

Course #: MUSI 1221, section 009
Credits: 1 unit
Semester: Spring 2021
Instructor: Earl MacDonald
Class meeting times: scheduled individually; synchronous, online instruction, via ZOOM)
Online Office Hours: By appointment. Professor MacDonald will be working remotely this semester.

Components of each piano lesson:

(…and therefore your daily practice routine.)

  • Earl MacDonald, teaching a jazz piano lesson.tune memorization and review
  • solo transcription, analysis, imitation and assimilation
  • keyboard skills: voicings and “comping”
  • improvisational concepts (harmonic, melodic and rhythmic).


At each of your weekly piano lessons, you will be given instruction and very specific assignments, in writing, from each of the categories above. The expected degree of progress for each of the weekly assignment will be clearly stated. In most cases, the assignments will be designed so that completion and attained mastery within one week is manageable (not mere progress).

Six jazz standards must be memorized by the end of the semester. Start by learning the songs required for the UConn Jazz Studies declaration jury. The student will be expected to: play the melody, sing the root motion, arpeggiate all chords, provide a harmonic analysis and improvise on the song form in a manner which clearly outlines the harmonic progression. Add the song to your “Song I Know” list, once memorized. Each week the instructor will choose one standard from this list for you to play by memory, to ensure that you are reviewing the pieces in an effort to retain them.

Each week you receive a grade based on the quality of your work from the preceding week’s assignment. Weekly assignments will constitute 80% of your final grade.

Lesson Form

A jury, adjudicated by the jazz faculty, will be scheduled at the the semester’s end. The jury will account for 20% of your grade.

*The course content, schedule and grading scheme are subject to change at the instructor’s discretion. Note: This online syllabus/class schedule is a malleable, evolving, and frequently updated document. Check it frequently.

Communication policy

E-mail is the instructor’s preferred method of communication with students. Please allow 48-hours for replies. When requesting a meeting outside of regularly scheduled lessons, please submit several meeting time options. I prefer to be addressed as Professor MacDonald.

Distance Education

Federal guidelines require authenticating student identity in distance education classes. This stipulation is met by having students log in to class materials (syllabus, links to online discussions, any other materials) through HuskyCT. https://huskyct.uconn.edu

Some useful telephone numbers, websites and services:
Student Code

You are responsible for acting in accordance with the University of Connecticut’s Student Conduct Code. Review and become familiar with these expectations.

Academic Integrity

This course expects all students to act in accordance with the Guidelines for Academic Integrity at the University of Connecticut. Consult UConn’s guidelines for academic integrity. Cheating and plagiarism are taken very seriously at the University of Connecticut. As a student, it is your responsibility to avoid plagiarism.

Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Related Interpersonal Violence

The University is committed to maintaining an environment free of discrimination or discriminatory harassment directed toward any person or group within its community – students, employees, or visitors. Academic and professional excellence can flourish only when each member of our community is assured an atmosphere of mutual respect. All members of the University community are responsible for the maintenance of an academic and work environment in which people are free to learn and work without fear of discrimination or discriminatory harassment. In addition, inappropriate amorous relationships can undermine the University’s mission when those in positions of authority abuse or appear to abuse their authority. To that end, and in accordance with federal and state law, the University prohibits discrimination and discriminatory harassment, as well as inappropriate amorous relationships, and such behavior will be met with appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from the University. Additionally, to protect the campus community, all non-confidential University employees (including faculty) are required to report sexual assaults, intimate partner violence, and/or stalking involving a student that they witness or are told about to the Office of Institutional Equity. The University takes all reports with the utmost seriousness. Please be aware that while the information you provide will remain private, it will not be confidential and will be shared with University officials who can help.  More information is available at equity.uconn.edu and titleix.uconn.edu.


Except for final examinations, the instructor has final authority in permitting students to submit assignments late or make up examinations.


My lectures, notes, handouts, and displays are protected by state common law and federal copyright law. They are my own original expression and I’ve recorded them prior or during my lecture in order to ensure that I obtain copyright protection. Students are authorized to take notes in my class; however, this authorization extends only to making one set of notes for your own personal use and no other use. I will inform you as to whether you are authorized to record my lectures at the beginning of each semester. If you are so authorized to record my lectures, you may not copy this recording or any other material, provide copies of either to anyone else, or make a commercial use of them without prior permission from me.

Students with Disabilities

The University of Connecticut is committed to protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities and assuring that the learning environment is accessible. If you anticipate or experience physical or academic barriers based on disability or pregnancy, please let me know immediately so that we can discuss options. Students who require accommodations should contact the Center for Students with Disabilities, Wilbur Cross Building Room 204, (860) 486-2020, or http://csd.uconn.edu/.

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