"The Art of the Song": The great American songbook


Photograph of two pianists deciphering musical textOverview:
The Great American Songbook captures the cultural zeitgeist of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Originating in America, overtime they would become the songs heard around the world.

Come rain or come shine… You all know the expression, you may not have all heard the song written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. These are two of the songwriters you will learn to appreciate during this course, along with Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and others. Examine each writer’s style, the signature features of their craft and how their individual contribution to the Great American Songbook was built to last. Together, you will explore the great marriage of words and music – the art of the song.

Target audience:
This course will appeal to anyone who enjoys music, particularly, jazz and Broadway shows. Whether you already know a lot about this subject or only a little, there will be something new to discover.

Learning objectives:
By the end of this course you will:

  • Recognise the style of each of the writers
  • Explain what makes their songs unique
  • Compare and contrast the styles of each of the writers
  • Describe how the songwriters influenced each other and those who came after them
  • Talk about the subject as a discerning listener

Course outline:
Each session will include a lecture presentation with sound and video recordings. There will be time in each session for questions and group discussion.

Session 1: Jerome Kern
Session 2: Richard Rogers
Session 3: George and Ira Gershwin
Session 4: Irving Berlin
Session 5: Cole Porter
Session 6: Harold Arlen

There is a short break halfway through each session, and you are welcome to bring your own refreshments if you wish.

Bruce Brown is originally from Los Angeles, where he established himself as a highly regarded pianist, singer, and songwriter performing at all the major jazz clubs in southern California. As a performer, Bruce's easy-going spontaneity establishes a natural rapport, always leaving his audience wanting more. In 1998, Bruce moved in New Zealand to take up the position as Senior Vocal Jazz Tutor at the Massey Conservatorium of Music, where he established a successful Jazz Voice programme that he managed for nearly 10 years. Bruce is currently working as an Artist Teacher at the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington.

Bruce’s creative portfolio includes a musical Breast Wishes (published by Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd.) and four albums of original compositions. His songs have been described as 'original standards' and reflect his love of the great American songbook.

“We were fortunate to have someone of the calibre of Bruce Brown taking this course. His personal expertise, knowledge and excellent communication ensured the course was informative and enjoyable”, A History of Vocal Jazz: Female icons participant (2018)

“Bruce Brown was an engaging and enthusiastic teacher, who has an exhaustive knowledge of his subject matter, and a great menu of interesting stories. His positive style helped stimulate class participation”, A History of Vocal Jazz: Female icons participant (2018)

Relevant links:
Bruce Brown
New Zealand School of Music

For further information:
Continuing Education, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140.
Phone 04 463 6556,  Email: conted@vuw.ac.nz

Please note: Courses need a minimum number of enrolments to go ahead. If your course doesn’t reach the number required, we’ll have to cancel it. If this happens, we’ll contact you by phone or email about a week before the scheduled start date and arrange a full refund. Please check your emails regularly.