Fresh Arranging Approaches: Holiday Jazz with Michael Smolens

2 Sundays, November 5 and 19, 1 - 4 pm

Fresh Arranging Approaches: Holiday Jazz with Michael Smolens
Age Adult
Event Type Workshop
Department Composition and Arranging
Day Sun
Instructor Michael Smolens
Status online event

This workshop will focus on how you can make any Christmas pop or Chanukah song or spiritual more fun (and challenging) to play, and even how to reinvent one from scratch. You’ll learn how to breathe new life into very familiar songs that you can play either solo or in a group, and that you’ll actually look forward to playing at a gig, family, or office event. It will also be an opportunity to bridge the gap between your own creative project(s) and Holiday music.   

Session One will be an overview of how to: 

  • reharmonize
  • change the feel and meter 
  • combine multiple styles
  • add new melodic & solo sections
  • integrate two (or more) songs into one piece  

Two weeks later, in Session Two, participants will bring in their ideas for a new arrangement in whatever form feels appropriate, from simple alterations to ideas for a new form, to a complete arrangement or recording.  

Michael Smolens has been teaching, composing, and arranging for over five decades. He has recorded and/or performed instrumentally with Stefon Harris, Paul McCandless & Paul Hanson, David Balakrishnan & Evan Price, Zakir Hussain, and Claudia Schmidt; and vocally with Bobby McFerrin collaborators David Worm, Bryan Dyer, & Rhiannon. His Holiday Project Sextet recently performed at Herbst Theater and is one of the few small ensembles dedicated to presenting reconstructed spirituals, Christmas, and Chanukah songs.

Testimonials from the Holiday Arranging workshop:

“The workshop was very informative and opened up a world of possibilities for Holiday music arranging. Would recommend, especially to people who are looking for fresh ideas.”
— Kelly Zhong (CJC pianist)

“I had an intense experience in this workshop, beyond my expectations . . . The scores, audio files, videos, examples from different genres, and rhythmic and harmonic transformations are all valuable templates that my playing and arranging will reference.  I’ll be learning from them for a long time.”  
— Jim Washington (pro pianist/arranger) 

“His workshop on Holiday arranging was incredibly useful and he helped jumpstart my first large scale arrangement of a spiritual.  Michael’s comments were very detailed, and he spent extra time helping me between the two workshop meetings.  Above and beyond!  Thank you!

— Frances Feldon (CJC recorder player)