Elena Cobb urges her classically trained colleagues to teach jazz, too

Elena’s pearly words of wisdom

“Some say that classically trained teachers cannot teach jazz. I disagree and I’m working tirelessly to promote the idea among my colleagues.”

Cobb was commissioned to write an article for the Music Teacher magazine UK that has an appetizing text plus a menu of tantalizing musical samples. (The whole spread is easily accessed at the composer/teacher’s blog site)

“Classically Trained Piano Teachers Can Improvise.”

About Elena
“Elena Cobb is a classically trained and highly experienced pianist, teacher and composer; having taught extensively both in her home country of Russia and the United Kingdom. She specializes in teaching children and became determined to make improvements that would benefit them and make the whole experience of learning to play the piano much more expanding, exciting and enjoyable.”


As a Classically trained pianist, I have no qualms about including the jazz genre in my curriculum. If a student has a hankering to compose jazzy pieces or improvise, I wholeheartedly encourage such activity. In fact, Fritz, one of my young ones, heard an upbeat “Hall of Fame” piece on the radio, and nagged his mother to find the score a.s.a.p. Instantly it was digitally downloaded on Music Notes, with a copy dashed off to me for review.

Engaging syncopated rhythms permeated flashy streams of 16ths, and as icing on the cake, the piece provided an opportunity to teach rotation through octaves that were not within easy reach of a 9-year old’s small hand.

Here I’m having a romp through the composition, which is played by Fritz, himself in a separate video. But at this particular lesson, he combines a jazz and Baroque journey. (See Links for Fritz’s solo)

The same child composed his own BOOGIE style composition after he indulged a published collection of BOOGIES. Quickly, he realized that a recurring bass pattern, (ostinato) could be a springboard for his own creation.

Fritz Boogie

(Look at the gleam in his eye!)


At another composing juncture, the youngster had put words to his own contemporary style score. (age 7)

To conclude, I agree with Jazz Messiah, Cobb, that all music teachers need to expand their musical horizons to include a sacred place for jazz and improvisation in their studios.

As Elena would say in her sprightly way:
“It’s time for teachers to give it a GO!”

LINK: (Fritz’s composing and jazz playing)


About arioso7: Shirley Kirsten

International piano teacher by Skype, recording artist, composer, piano finder, freelance writer, film maker, story teller: Grad of the NYC HS of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, NYU (Master of Arts) Studies with Lillian Freundlich and Ena Bronstein; Master classes with Murray Perahia and Oxana Yablonskaya. Studios in BERKELEY and EL CERRITO, California; Member, Music Teachers Assoc. of California, MTAC; Distance learning and Skyped instruction with supplementary videos: SKYPE ID, shirleypiano1 Contact me at: shirley_kirsten@yahoo.com OR http://www.youtube.com/arioso7 or at FACEBOOK: Shirley Smith Kirsten, http://facebook.com /shirley.kirsten TWITTER: http://twitter.com/arioso7 Private fund-raising for non-profits as pianist--Public Speaking re: piano teaching and creative approaches
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4 Responses to Elena Cobb urges her classically trained colleagues to teach jazz, too

  1. Fran says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I always include Jazz pieces for my students, in particular young ones, utiliizing pieces from the “All That Jazz and Pizzazz” series by Noona to the great enjoyment of several of my students. In fact I have a recital coming up in a couple of weeks and two students are performing Jazz pieces. I will have to take a look at Elena Cobb’s books. Thanks for the suggestion!


  2. Atush says:

    A critical addition to student repertoire and a terrific aid for students to hone ear, technique and creativity.


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