Course Syllabus

Jazz Combo

Michael Dessen, UC Irvine
MUS 176 (2 units), course code 04572, Fall 2021
Course meets: Fridays, 1pm-2:50pm, MM 218
My office hour: Mondays, 11am-12pm, CAC 3023

Course summary

Welcome! This course is a music performance workshop focused on small group jazz. The two main goals are:

  • To help you improve your skills as a creative improviser, performer and collaborator
  • To help you expand your understanding of jazz as a musical and cultural practice

In class, you will practice repertoire and develop a sound together as an ensemble in order to prepare for the UCI Jazz Combos concert, as well as an additional performance for students at Santa Ana High School. Outside of class, your assigned work will include: 1) practicing the assigned repertoire individually on your instrument; 2) a weekly 1-hour practice session as a band, run collectively by all students; and 3) several listening/reading/viewing assignments with short written responses and/or online discussions in Canvas.

Course format

The current plan for this course, as with most UCI classes this fall, is to meet in the conventional, in-person format. We will meet in a large room, and per current UCI policy, everyone (regardless of vaccination status, unless they have been approved for an accommodation) is required to wear a face covering while indoors. This means that wind players must purchase a wind instrument face mask (example). 

We are currently planning for the combos concert to be in-person, with a live audience. If the situation changes and we are suddenly required to work from home, then the department will check out the necessary audio equipment to each student, and I will guide you in setting it up, so that we can rehearse and perform remotely.

At the end of this syllabus, you will find exhaustive details about UCI's covid policies this fall. Please be sure you understand them.

Repertoire and arrangements

As the instructor, I will provide guidance and direction, while also requiring students to take an active role as creative collaborators. I will provide repertoire over the first few weeks of the quarter, and we will develop arrangements in class and in your outside of class sessions. The goal is to develop our own, unique interpretations of each composition, and to gain experience in creative collaboration. We will work on the following pieces:

  • Deeper Than Happy, by Linda May Han Oh
  • Translinear Light, by Alice Coltrane (learn by ear, no sheet music)
  • Sympodial Sunflower, by Kris Davis
  • The Rumpus, by Michael Dessen
  • We will also work on open improvisations and Conduction (developed by Lawrence "Butch" Morris)

Audio and sheet music is posted in the Files section of Canvas. In addition to practicing your parts on your own to learn them individually, you will also do some related listening/response assignments, one each for Oh, Coltrane and Davis.

Important dates

  • Thursday, Sept. 30: Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones: Required workshop (4pm-5:30pm), pre-concert talk (7pm-7:30pm) and the concert (8pm, one set), unless you have class/work conflicts.
  • Friday, Oct. 1: Class will not meet this day because I am performing in LA. I will provide into on the concert which is part of the Angel City Jazz Festival, Oct. 1-15.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 9: Required early morning performance at Santa Ana High School
  • Wed., Nov. 10: Jazz Combos evening concert, soundcheck starts at 5pm
  • Fri., Nov. 12: Class won't meet this day, because we're performing two concerts earlier this week
  • Note: We will meet on Nov. 19 and Dec. 3 as usual (i.e. after the concerts). We will not meet in exam week.

Expectations, grading and accommodations

Expected time commitment: For a 2 unit course, I expect you to spend a minimum of 4 hours per week on work outside of class. If you are investing the time and are unable to keep up with everything, please talk to me right away and I will help.

Grading criteria: Your grade will be determined based on the following criteria, weighted equally:

  • Active participation in all classes and in both performances
  • Outside of class, learning the repertoire to the best of your ability and attending weekly band practices
  • Outside of class, completing the reading/viewing/response assignments by the due date

How your grade is determined: I will not assign letter grades to any individual assignments, but I will communicate with you at any time that your work overall falls below what I consider to be a "B" grade. By Wednesday of finals week, you must submit a one paragraph self-evaluation in which you explain the grade you believe you earned for your work in the course, based on the criteria above. I will assign your final course grade taking into account my own evaluation of your work alongside yours.

Attendance, late work and requesting accommodations: Our work in this course is highly collaborative so attendance and meeting assignment deadlines is very important. You must contact me as soon as possible if illness or an emergency prevents you from attending class or submitting work on time. If appropriate, you have two options for requesting accommodations: 1) contact me directly and either explain your situation over email or schedule a time for us to talk by phone, Zoom or in person; and/or 2) contact the DSC to request coronavirus, disability or other reasonable accommodations, as detailed below in the section "Reasonable accommodations."

Collaboration, inclusivity and integrity

Many activities in this course are collaborative, but you must be always careful to avoid representing another person's work as your own. Any attempt to do so will be considered an academic integrity violation, and will be reported.

My intention is always to facilitate welcoming, inclusive and respectful environments for collective learning among diverse students, in the spirit of the UC's system-wide policies on diversity. Those policies define diversity as "the variety of personal experiences, values, and worldviews that arise from differences of culture and circumstance" and "include race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, language, abilities/disabilities, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, and geographic region, and more." I expect all of us to aspire to create a supportive environment, to communicate with one another in respectful, constructive ways, and to understand the presence of these diverse life experiences in our classroom as a strength and learning opportunity for everyone. By remaining in the course after reading this syllabus, you are affirming that you share these intentions.

The remaining sections on this syllabus apply to all UCI in-person or hybrid courses this fall, and instructors were all asked to include this language on their course syllabi:

Health and coronavirus guidelines

When physically present in a classroom, other instructional space, or any other space owned or controlled by UCI, all students and all employees (faculty and staff) must comply with COVID-19 related UCI executive directives and guidance. This guidance takes into account federal, state, and local guidelines and is available at The following provides an outline of the basic requirements and includes links to other sites for more information.

Reasonable accommodations

If you would like to request a reasonable accommodation related to the coronavirus or for any other reason to facilitate your participation in this course, please contact the UCI Disability Services Center (DSC):

  • How to Contact DSC: 949-824-7974 or
  • How to Request a Reasonable Accommodation: Students who want to request reasonable accommodations must register with DSC at the DSC Student Registration Page.

Cleaning and Sanitizing of Classrooms and other Learning Spaces

UCI will clean and sanitize classrooms and other learning spaces according to standards established by the campus and articulated under the heading “Classroom Planning” at: If you find something of concern in this regard, please report it to the instructor and to and

Required Actions and Behaviors for In-Person Participation in Classrooms or Other Learning Spaces

Complete the Return to Campus Training (required for all students and employees (faculty and staff))

  • All students are required to take the Anteater Pledge and Healthy Practices Training. These are both one-time only requirements.
  • All employees (faculty and staff) are required to complete the “Returning to Campus” training module.
  • Please read the Executive Directive specifying UCI Return to Campus Training requirement for additional details.

Completing a Daily Symptom Check (required for all students and employees (faculty and staff) regardless of vaccination status

  • For more information about the daily symptom check requirement, see:
  • Please read the Executive Directive specifying daily symptom check requirements for additional details.
  • If you have symptoms, do not report in-person to your classroom, lab or other learning space and follow the instructions on the app.

Follow all Guidelines Posted Inside & Outside of Buildings, Classrooms, Restrooms and Elevators

  • UCI has posted signage inside and outside of buildings, classrooms, restrooms and elevators with instructions for you to follow to reduce the risk of disease transmission.
  • All individuals within these spaces must follow the instructions on the signage.

When in a Classroom or Other Learning Space

Face Covering Requirement

  • All individuals in any indoor space owned or controlled by UCI are required to comply with UCI’s Executive Directive on face coverings, which requires individuals to wear a face covering when indoors regardless of vaccination status except in certain very limited situations.
  • Face coverings reduce the risk of disease transmission and protect both the person wearing the face covering and other people.
  • For more information, please see Chancellor Gillman’s Executive Directive that specifies UCI face covering requirements.
  • Only people who have received UCI approved prior authorization are exempted from the face covering requirement. In order to request a prior authorization, contact the Disability Services Center (contact information above under “Reasonable Accommodations”).
  • In the event that a student in a classroom or other learning space fails to wear a face covering per campus executive directive or follow other safety protocols without UCI approved authorization, the instructor (faculty or teaching assistant) will ask them to put on a mask. If they do not comply, they will immediately dismiss the student from the classroom or other learning space. The instructor has the responsibility to report anyone who is unauthorized and not following the campus face-covering executive directive to Office of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct (OAISC). Students do not need to report each other, and if the instructor has not removed a student not wearing a face covering, other students should assume that person has prior authorization.
  • Instructors may not disclose any information about students who have been authorized to, e.g., not wear a face covering in the classroom.

COVID-19 Case Identified in Classroom or Other Learning Space

  • If a student or employee (faculty or staff) tests positive for COVID-19, or thinks they may have COVID-19, the case and identified close contacts must cooperate with the Contact Tracing and Vaccine Navigation Services (CTVNS) personnel assigned to conduct the case investigation. Cooperation with CTVNS personnel is required by the Chancellor’s Executive Directive on Contact Tracing.
  • A student who tests positive for COVID-19 must report this diagnosis to the COVID-19 hotline at 949.824.9918 or
  • CTVNS will conduct a case investigation to identify close contacts and determine who needs to quarantine as a result of close contact with a case. In most classroom settings, very few individuals are likely to be identified as close contacts and therefore it is unlikely that an entire class would need to quarantine. Additionally, per current public health orders, close contacts to a COVID-19 case who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic are not required to quarantine.

In Case of Worsening COVID-19 Situation

UCI leadership is actively monitoring campus and community COVID-19 case rates and is in regular consultation with local public health authorities. Should conditions worsen or if new state or local public health orders are issued, UCI may move courses from in-person or hybrid to fully remote.

Failure to Follow Safety Protocols

Any student or employee (faculty or staff) who violates these policies may be referred to the Office of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct, Academic Personnel, OEOD, or other bodies as appropriate.

Thank you for reading the entire syllabus. I look forward to working with you!