In celebration of the jazz legacy that Jackie McLean (1931-2006) created for The Hartt School, the University renamed its jazz program The Jackie McLean Institute in 2000, honoring McLean's 30th anniversary at the school.
An American jazz saxophone great, McLean enabled Hartt to offer its first classes in jazz, and in 1980 the Department of African American Music was founded with McLean as its director. In 1981 the Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies was approved by the National Association of Schools of Music, and the program accepted its first class of 10 students in the 1981-82 academic year. The Bachelor of Music in African American Music/Jazz Studies program continues to thrive, offering students the opportunity to focus on the jazz and African American idiom, perform in jazz ensembles, interact with internationally recognized jazz musicians in special workshops and master classes, and participate in a creative cultural relationship with Hartford's community-based Artists Collective, an organization founded by McLean and his wife, Dollie, and dedicated to the promotion of African and Caribbean art forms.
At the undergraduate level, the nondegree option is the Undergraduate Diploma in Music with is a three-year program open to all instrumental and vocal performance majors, composers, and jazz studies students. Students completing this program may continue formal training at The Hartt School in an undergraduate degree program or in the graduate professional degree program, if desired.