A jazz album featuring music composed and interpreted by music students at a Greek university might come as a surprise in this country - though such projects have been carried out in other European and Balkan states for at least a century. Indeed, the record's production might not have been so noteworthy had it stemmed from the commercial field. What it is, however, is the first results of jazz studies carried out at university level in Greece, showcasing the work of the first ever group of students who completed the five-year degree at Corfu's Ionian University. For the university's department of music, the «Ionian Jazz Ensemble» recording marks a live rendition of many years of teaching. Jazz as an academic subject began shyly, with the establishment of the music department nine years ago. Eventually, the project began to take shape in 1997, when jazz and saxophone lecturer Dimos Dimitriadis organized the first teaching curriculum (history and theory of jazz, improvisation workshops and jazz ensembles). The first group of first- and second-year students who showed interest in taking this subject developed into a quality musical ensemble. Through live appearances all over Greece, such as the Jazz Festival at Thessaloniki's Demetria Festival, but also thanks to the courses, seminars, rehearsals and above all the hard work under the guidance of their teachers, the student group turned into a well-tuned jazz ensemble. Even their teacher, Dimitriadis, was surprised with the end result. «The development was impressive and unexpected,» said Dimitriadis to Kathimerini. «During the course of six years, the kids created a fresh and lively ensemble with influences from and references to the complete jazz spectrum.» According to Dimitriadis, the recording's core value lies in the originality and maturity of the compositions (the original works were composed by Haris Pegiasis, Loukia Palaiologou and Alki Karizoni). As for the secret of its success: «This lies in the collaboration between student and teacher, the free teaching spirit which defines the Ionian University as a whole, as well as the shared vision of a group of musicians, all demonstrating the kind of solidarity and respect which runs through the jazz world,» said Dimitriadis. «We offered the information and encouraged critical thinking and personal search. The road to personal creation, however, as one of our guest saxophone players noted, develops through other people's music, while your own awaits discovery at the very end.» The student talent which blossomed on the Ionian University campus was not a sudden phenomenon. The students stopped studying jazz after experimenting with a number of different music genres. They worked on Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill operas, innovative works by Yiannis Christou, discovered electronica, tested themselves in composition, played various instruments and lived through new musical experiences within the Free Improvisation Ensemble framework. «Jazz becomes more substantial when it incorporates all musical traditions,» said Dimitriadis. «From classical to folk, all the way to contemporary avant-garde and rock music. Jazz is fed and enriched by nearly all types of music. That is why a general musical environment such as the one cultivated at the Ionian University, for instance, was able to nurture such noteworthy jazz musicians.» The album, co-produced by the Ionian University and the Jazz & Tzaz magazine, is available with the March and summer 2003 issues.