Teaching, like music, is a verb, not a noun. And it is this philosophy and genuine enthusiasm for seeing my students grow in their love and appreciation of this craft that guides my teaching. I like to tell my students that I teach a "how" and "why", not a "what." 

When it comes to teaching jazz specifically, my approach centers jazz as a language, not a set of harmonies, rules, and scales. While these things are important, they are merely the tools we use to shape our expressions in this sonic language, not the language itself. Here are some key aspects of my teaching:

  • Rhythm as a focal point in jazz improvisation coursework and ensembles. 

  • Deep study of the Jazz Tradition with an emphasis on intentionality in process rather than just a body of repertoire.

  • A focus on intentionality and practices of improvisatory consciousness. 

  • An emphasis on composition and improvisation as creative manifestations of individuality.

  • Vocal and linguistic modalities of pedagogy that drive students' assimilation of the jazz language. 

  • An emphasis on the sociocultural context of jazz that informs its study and practice.

  • An emphasis on learning in community. 

  • Encouraging students to bring their whole selves into their learning.

  • Blues-based improvisation pedagogy that pulls from the entire tradition of Black American Music. 


Dr. VanHemert is the Director of Jazz Studies at The Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University.

The Jazz Studies Program builds upon the mission of the Columbus State University Schwob School of Music by offering its students engaging jazz performance opportunities synchronized with in-depth study of jazz music. A thorough curriculum of jazz courses is designed to enhance performance ability and prepare future music educators to teach jazz in their communities. Courses offered include four levels of jazz theory and improvisation, jazz history, jazz pedagogy, and special topics independent study. A robust jazz minor and jazz certificate are also available for those students seeking applied individual study and additional challenging scholarly activities.

The program includes performance opportunities in the Schwob Jazz Orchestra and several small jazz combos. Ensembles from the program have been featured in performance at events honoring First Lady Rosalynn Carter, President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, Mercedes Ellington, Steve Wozniak, Tom Brokaw, Peyton Manning, Octavia Spencer, Ann Reinking, and Gabrielle Giffords.

Recent alumni from the program have gone on to win professional posts with organizations across the world, including the World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra (U.S., Canada, Japan), the Holland America Line B.B. King All-Star Band (Australia, New Zealand), Azamara Club Cruises (Italy, Greece, France, Spain, Turkey), the Marine Corps Band (Japan, California), the Army Infantry Band (Kansas), and the Navy Fleet Band (Italy, Washington).

Please contact me for more information about Jazz Studies at CSU.