United States - Marin Campus

Charting Jazz and Blues in Literature, Theology and Film

Johnston Seminar OOOC

Ogren May Term.jpg

Enrollment limit

12 students


Start Date - May 1st, 2022

End Date - May 25, 2022

Course fee


Included in course fee

Lodging, meals, excursions and performance supplies. 

Beyond course fee

Travel to and from the Marin Campus, estimated at around $250-$300.

Course Description

The course is an interdisciplinary exploration of the creative process with jazz and blues as its central focus and the Bay Area as our generative crossroads. May Term enables us intensively to focus on the “call” of jazz and blues to responses in literature, theology and film.  on key musical concepts and practices, the history of jazz and blue and literary respo from jazz and  blues, historical and cultural resonances, and visual integration with film.

Here are some notes on the basics of the course:

  • We’ll chart the literal and figurative route of Black vernacular music as it resonates broadly and distinctively throughout American (and world) culture and society.
  • We’ll visit key Black venues and historical sites in San Francisco and Oakland, such as “The Music They Played On, West Oakland Walk of Fame,” San Francisco’s “Harlem of the West,” and the Saint John Coltrane Church. Additional field trips to be negotiated with students.
  • As participants in this process, we’ll read, analyze, discuss and make improvisational creative works together, including filming opportunities in Oakland and San Francisco. You’ll negotiate creative work that includes written and visual projects relevant to your learning, and if in Johnston, to your contracts.
  • And we’ll conclude the term with a performance and films created as we study together.

The first chord we’ll strike is the history of race relations in the United States.  Race is inherently connected to economic and social structure in America and shapes.  The next chords sound forth from the perspectives and performances of musicians, writers, poets, and filmmakers.  And then, it’s up to us to see what comes next.

Some of the course materials to consider:

  • Toni Morrison, Jazz
  • Peter Guralnick, Searching for Robert Johnson
  • Farah Jasmine Griffin, "When Malindy Sings: A Meditation on Black Women’s Vocality”
  • Robert O’Meally, “Louis Armstrong, Bricolage, and the Aesthetics of Swing”
  • Richard Williams, The Blue Moment: Miles Davis Kind of Blue and the Remaking of Modern Music. 
  • Angela Davis, selections from Blues Legacies and Black Feminism
  • Writers from the Harlem Renaissance and beyond: like James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Ntozake Shange.
  • Ingrid Monson, selections from Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies

Additional Information

Information session on October 15th at 2 p.m. in Duke 108.

Professor Ogren will be at the Johnston Community meeting on October 25th at 4:00 p.m. to discuss the class. 


CRC photo_200.jpg Christopher Coppola (crc@christophercoppola.com)

Christopher Coppola has been a leader in digital media and cinema syntax for over two decades. He has directed 13 feature films, and television shows, and produced content for alternative distribution interactive platforms. He lectures at CES, NAB, SHOWWEST, and many film festivals. Plaster City, his production company, produces low-budget feature films on which film students can intern and learn by working on set alongside professionals. Christopher was the Director of Cinema Projects and Studies and a tenured film professor at the San Francisco Art Institute before it closed its doors in 2022.   He has been a member of the Directors Guild of America for 25 years.