We’re Contemporary Musical Arts at New England Conservatory: a revolution in music and music education for more than 50 years.
You might have known us recently as Contemporary Improvisation, a term that really liberates the idea of improvisation from any specific genre. It reflects what’s already been going on for years among creative musicians all over the world, who refuse to allow style or genre definitions to define what they do.
And today, we are known as Contemporary Musical Arts! CMA program endures as an innovative training ground for adventurous musicians who thrive in the space between genres and beyond boundaries.
Former NEC president Gunther Schuller was already aware of the changes in the music world in the late 1950s when he coined the term “Third Stream,” implying that the music of today is almost inevitably a hybrid, and “Third Stream” was the original name of the department for its first twenty years, under the leadership of it's visionary founding chair, Ran Blake.
Our faculty, students, and alumni continue to evolve the conversation around improvisation, composition, and performance and, each year, the CMA department's selective and diverse international student body transforms itself into a vibrant and supportive musical community, sharing everything they bring to the table with one another and acting as a catalyst for musical adventures no one could have anticipated.
Our curriculum provides the grounding that students need in ear training, technique, conceptual ideas, interdisciplinary collaboration, songwriting, and a wide range of improvisational traditions, including world music, jazz, and the latest innovations—everything required to become a leading composer/performer/improviser/in today’s world.
As one of NEC’s signature programs, the Contemporary Musical Arts department also offers elective classes and ensembles that give every NEC student the opportunity to expand their musical skills, stylistic range, and creative horizons in ways that can dramatically enhance their preparedness for a successful career in the musical world of today. With its legacy of innovation, its wide range of performance opportunities, and its commitment to musical excellence, NEC is the perfect home for Contemporary Musical Arts, and we’re proud to be part of the world’s greatest music school!