Piano Lessons

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

Jazz Piano Lessons

Course #s: MUSI 1222, section 009;
MUSI 1221, section 009 (Secondary Applied Lessons),
MUSI 3222 section 009
Credits: variable
Semester: Spring 2024
Instructor: Earl MacDonald
Office: MUSB 207
Class meeting times: scheduled individually
Office Hours: Wednesdays, 10 – 11AM, and by appointment.

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 mid-semester progress report will be e-mailed from the instructor. 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 and schedule are subject to change at the instructor’s discretion and will be properly communicated to students as changes arise.

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.


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.

It is the responsibility of all students to acquaint themselves, and to adhere to all university policies. Please review the following:

Students are expected to follow all safety protocols and to keep current with university communications regarding COVID-19.

Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Related Interpersonal Violence

The University is committed to maintaining a safe and non-discriminatory learning, living, and working environments for all members of the University 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 responsible employees (including faculty), as outlined in the Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Related Interpersonal Violence, are required to report to the Office of Institutional Equity any information that they receive related to sexual assaults, intimate partner violence, and/or stalking involving a student. An exception to this reporting exists if students disclose information as a part of coursework submitted to an instructor in connection with a course assignment. Even in the absence of such obligation, all Employees are encouraged to contact OIE if they become aware of information that suggests a safety risk to the University community or any member thereof. 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, including confidential and exempt employee resources available for support and assistance, can be found at equity.uconn.edu and titleix.uconn.edu.

Statement on Absences from Class Due to Religious Observances and Extra-Curricular Activities

Faculty and instructors are expected to reasonably accommodate individual religious practices unless doing so would result in fundamental alteration of class objectives or undue hardship to the University’s legitimate business purposes. Such accommodations may include rescheduling an exam or giving a make-up exam, allowing a presentation to be made on a different date or assigning the student appropriate make-up work that is intrinsically no more difficult than the original assignment. Faculty and instructors are strongly encouraged to allow students to complete work missed due to participation in extra-curricular activities that enrich their experience, support their scholarly development, and benefit the university community. Examples include participation in scholarly presentations, performing arts, and intercollegiate sports, when the participation is at the request of, or coordinated by, a University official. Students should be encouraged to review the course syllabus at the beginning of the semester for potential conflicts and promptly notify their instructor of any anticipated accommodation needs. Students are responsible for making arrangements in advance to make up missed work.

For conflicts with final examinations, students should contact the Dean of Students Office. Faculty and instructors are also encouraged to respond when the Counseling Program for Intercollegiate Athletes (CPIA) requests student progress reports. This will enable the counselors to give our students appropriate advice.

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/.

Emergency Management/Preparedness

In case of inclement weather, a natural disaster, or a campus emergency, the University communicates through email and text message. Students are encouraged to sign up for alerts through http://alert.uconn.edu. Students should be aware of emergency procedures, and further information is available through the Office of Emergency Management at http://publicsafety.uconn.edu/emergency/.

Some useful telephone numbers:

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