1. Let's get everyone playing whatever they feel, and lower our inhibitions so we can express ourselves through musical sounds.
2. Let's get each of the students improvising good melodies that follow the harmonic tones of the chord progression, while allowing them to develop their own sense of personal expression.
Many people consider free improvisation to be an important precursor to developing melodic improvisation skills. It is certainly true that you cannot get students to work on melodic improvisation until they have laid down some inhibitions and are willing to play in front of others and expand their comfort zone. It is also true, I believe, that competent melodic improvisation requires much more theoretical understanding and practice than free improvisation. Nevertheless, I applaud teacher efforts to incorporate any improvisation into their curriculum and recognize many valuable outcomes of free improvisation. Some of these might include listening carefully while you play, and interacting with others musically, as well as expressing yourself in creative ways. Very valuable!
However, I also recognize that there are concerts coming up very soon, and I only have so much time to prepare for them. Thus, the Improv Pathways jazz improvisation curriculum I developed is very sensitive to these time restraints. It packs all the most critical improvisation concepts and skills into a 4-month curriculum, leaving you the rest of the school year to focus on concerts and festivals. It also has correlated performance materials - 6 songs to be precise - in both combo and big band arrangements. The great news is that these arrangements are long enough, complex enough, beefy enough, and musical enough to be used at festivals along with all the school concerts. It will not sound like you are playing a trite song composed for a middle school jazz method book. And, of course, the student's improvised solos will blow everyone away and drive up your festival scores to new heights.
The Improv Pathways curriculum does have several free improvisation activities early on, (for the above stated benefits) but then it goes heavy on the melodic improvisation. It was created through years of action research and pilot testing. It is convenient, enjoyable to use, and effective. Want melodic improvisation? Get Improv Pathways for your jazz band.