Celebrate Female Jazz Artists and Band Leaders

A Lesson You Won’t Find in a Textbook

To celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month, MENC member Joe Pisano created a unique lesson plan: one that spotlights women instrumentalists in jazz music.

“Other than Mary Lou Williams and women jazz vocalists, we don’t spend a lot of time talking about females in jazz,” said Pisano, who teaches a jazz history course at Grove City College. “My thought was, let’s put something out there in celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month.” He was inspired to create the lesson when one of his female students asked about women jazz artists during a class discussion.

His lesson plan is designed for students from late elementary through high school and includes several YouTube videos of women jazz artists performing. His students learn about artists such as Mary Lou Williams, “Vi” Redd, and Lil’ Hardin, as well as the groundbreaking band leaders Ina Ray Hutton and Blanche Calloway. Through the lesson, students are exposed to different eras of jazz, from the 1920s to the present day.

At the end of the lesson, Pisano suggests that students create an interactive presentation about the female jazz artists they’ve learned about in the lesson, or others they’re interested in studying.

How Web 2.0 Is Changing the Study of Jazz History

Pisano, the founder of MusTech.net, and more recently, Musicpln.org, is excited about the applications of Web 2.0 for music education. He said that sites like YouTube “have changed my jazz history course.”

While he has an extensive collection of jazz resources, including CDs, DVDs, and publications, Pisano said that in the last two years, he’s been able to find video on YouTube that is not available anywhere else, even for purchase. That’s because people are uploading their home movies and original material.

The diversity of the material and the free, widespread access to these tools is a formula that makes for great “open source lessons,” says Pisano. “It’s a phenomenal way to present jazz.”

View the entire lesson on My Music Class (member login required)

Want to discuss teaching jazz with Web 2.0? Visit the Jazz forum.

Joseph Pisano, PhD, is the associate chair of music and associate band director at Grove City College in Grove City, PA. He is an active arts advocate, writer, conductor, adjudicator, trumpet player, clinician, and the founder ofMusTech.NetMusicEdNews.com, and Musicpln.org websites.
-Anne Wagener, April 5, 2011 ©  National Association for Music Education