Skip to main content
March 4, 2020 6:00–8:00 pm
Duke Arts Annex
Special Topics

On the Spot! Improvising Music from the Ground Up

Taught by Andrew Waggoner

About the Workshop

Learn to improvise music in any style, on any instrument, from your cherished violin to an overturned garbage can. No previous experience needed, whether with improvisation, reading music, or even having taken lessons. Anyone willing to listen, respond and then make some noise is welcome to take part.

The workshop will include exercises in listening; call-and-response; hearing and imagining musical textures; creating character through musical gesture; and establishing dramatic narrative. Altogether, these add up to a toolset for making music on the spot, allowing first-timers to create whole pieces in collaboration with seasoned veterans.

About the Instructor

Andrew Waggoner was born in 1960 in New Orleans. He grew up there and in Minneapolis and Atlanta, and studied at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the Eastman School of Music and Cornell University. Called “the gifted practitioner of a complex but dramatic and vividly colored style” by the New Yorker, his music has been commissioned and performed by the the Academy of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields; the Los Angeles Philharmonic; the Saint Louis, Denver, Syracuse, and Winnipeg Symphonies; the Corigliano, Miro, Villiers, Lark, and JACK Quartets; the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble; the California EAR Unit; pianists Gloria Cheng and Molly Morkoski; violist Melia Watras; cellist Robert Burkhart; the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic of Zlin, Czech Republic; Sequitur; the Empyrean Ensemble; Buglisi-Foreman Dance; Dinosaur Annex; CELLO; Flexible Music; Peggy Pearson and Winsor Music; Duo Cortona; Seattle Modern Orchestra; Tanglewood; Ekmeles; Ensemble Nordlys, of Denmark; and Ensemble Accroche Note, of France.

In 2009 he received an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has also received grants and prizes from ASCAP, Yaddo, The New York State Council on the Arts, Meet the Composer, New Music Delaware, and the Eastman School of Music. Other awards include the Lee Ettelson prize from Composers Inc., a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Roger Sessions Prize for an American composer from the Liguria Study Center in Bogliasco, Italy. Most recently he was a second-prize winner in the Lydian String Quartet/Brandeis University Composition Competition.

His latest solo disc, Quantum Memoir, concertos for guitar, piano, and violin, was released on Bridge Records in August of 2019, about which MusicWeb International wrote “Waggoner is indubitably his own man, and in these compact pieces conjures music of astonishing and unexpected depth, precision and sophistication”. His CD of chamber music and improvisations from Albany Records, Terror and Memory, was released in 2011 to broad critical acclaim. His work is also available on CRI/New World; Vienna Modern Masters; Centaur; and Fleur de Son. In addition to his concert works, Waggoner has also composed extensively for theatre and for film, and is an active violinist. He was a founding Director of the Seal Bay Festival of American Music in Vinalhaven, Maine, and is currently Co-Artistic Director, with his wife, cellist Caroline Stinson, of the Catskills-based Weekend of Chamber Music. He currently teaches composition and improvisation at Duke University. His music is available through Subito Music and his website.

About the Location

This workshop meets in the Duke Arts Annex: get directions.

About DukeCreate

DukeCreate is a series of free, hands-on arts workshops designed to help Duke students, staff, and faculty develop a variety of creative skills. Workshops are open to all skill levels and backgrounds. Most take place in the Duke Arts Annex or the Rubenstein Arts Center and are typically held weeknights 6-8pm.

Workshops are free to all Duke students and staff, with priority given to students. Class size is limited. Students must sign up in advance. Registration for the following week’s DukeCreate workshops goes live on Friday mornings – sign up in advance to guarantee your spot!  Online enrollment for Duke staff opens on the day of the workshop. Staff can also show up 10 minutes prior to a workshop in case a slot becomes available. Walk-ins will be accommodated on a space-available basis.

DukeCreate is sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts (DukeArts) and University Center Activities and Events (UCAE).