Interactive Improv Appears at UTC

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga music department presented an improvisational piano concert by Dennis Thurmond.

The concert entitled “400 Years of Keyboard Improvisation” was held in the Roland Hayes Concert Hall on Mar. 23. This free event was open to students and the public and is meant to be an interactive event between pianist and audience. Pianist Dennis Thurmond took melodies from UTC music majors in the audience and created new songs by merging the chosen song with various genres of piano.

Dennis Thurmond

Dennis Thurmond

Professor Thurmond is a classically trained pianist who practices jazz as well as keyboard synthesis. Thurmond has been in productions such as the New York Vocal Jazz Ensemble as well as for the Boston Pops. As well as touring in Asia and Europe, Thurmond has composed with the Jazz SophistiCats series. Thurmond, a Tennessee native, is the director of pedagogy and specialist in electronic music.

During the performance, Thurmond called on UTC students with prepared melodies that he had never seen before. After looking over the line of sheet music, Thurmond then played the line to the audience. Afterwards, he began improvising what came to his mind from the music he was given. At the end Thurmond had improvised a total of six pieces. Finally, Thurmond was called on stage for an encore were the Memphis born professor played a blues piece entitled “Memphis Blues.

Shaina Ferguson, a senior from Knoxville, Tenn. said the performance was “impressive.” “I had never seen improv done like that before,” said Ferguson

This event, sponsored by the music department, is meant to showcase interactive improvisation according the the UTC music department website. The music department’s website stated that it would be “a one-of-a-kind concert that will be both interactive and entertaining.”

According to, to improv means “to compose, perform or deliver without preparation.” An example of improvisational piano could be seen here by a man demonstrating the technique of freestyle musicianship. Thurmond used his technical background to improvise using musical genres such as Baroque, Jazz, Impressionistic, and Romantic.

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  1. Bobby Barrentine says:

    Hi Dennis, it’s only been 48 years since we saw each other at our Treadwell
    graduation. I typed in your name on a search engine and found you there. I
    was telling my wife a few weeks ago about you, and how my hope was you
    were having a wonderful life. So glad to see that you are so successful. What a joy it was for me to see the video of you.
    Love you my friend,
    Bobby Barrentine