Dr. Bert Konowitz was a Professor of Music at Teachers College - Columbia University where he teaches courses in Jazz & Classical Music Improvisation. He is the founder, conductor and pianist of Spirit, the award-winning Teachers College - Columbia University In-Residence Improvisation Ensemble. Mr. Alexander Bernstein, son of the late Leonard Bernstein, serves as the Distinguished Trustee of this musical organization which has performed recently with jazz greats such as Dave Brubeck.
Dr. Konowitz was trained initially as a classical pianist, studying with the renowned Rebecca Davidson and Josef Fiedelman. His interest in jazz and improvisation surfaced early in his development as he performed as a pianist in many jazz and classical settings. Dr. Konowitz’s dedication to developing meaningful relationships between jazz & classical music grows out of his interaction with a diverse group of artists such as John Cage, Morton Gould, John Denver, Dave Brubeck, Dr. Billy Taylor, Dr. Donald Byrd and Dr. Robert Pace. His pioneering work in jazz and improvisation is reflected in his many publications that are distributed and translated around the world, including texts, compositions and teaching guides for piano/keyboard, chorus, orchestra, string ensemble, jazz ensemble and classroom activity. His piece Impulse, for flute and piano, focusing on the partnership between composition and improvisation, was recently recorded on the SPIRIT label. He was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Award for composition, presented at Tully Hall, Lincoln Centre New York, as well as receiving numerous ASCAP Awards, several Leonard Bernstein Education Through the Arts Awards, State Council of the Arts Re-grant awards, and the Raymond Burrows Piano Award.
In 2000, Dr. Konowitz was invited by the Chinese Culture University in Tapei to teach courses in Jazz & Classical Improvisation. He was commissioned by The Little Orchestra Society at Lincoln Centre to compose “Salute to Ms. Liberty” for symphony orchestra, chorus and jazz ensemble, performed at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Centre, with Dr. Konowitz as pianist. He was also commissioned by the Lawrence Philharmonic to compose “100Years” for orchestra and soprano.
New York State’s Department of Education commissioned Dr. Konowitz to create a new state-wide high school music curriculum, Music in Modern American Society, as well as serve as a major writer to their middle school curriculum. As an expert in the area of improvisation, his impact covers a broad geographic spectrum from teaching and presenting workshops to performing in universities and music conferences throughout the United States, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, London and Canada. Since 2000, he has served as the Improvisation Artist-in- Residence in the arts-award winning Syosset New York Schools. After succeeding John Mehegan at Teachers College, Dr. Konowitz proceeded to develop new and innovative jazz instructional methods and programs which are being used with great success by students around the globe.