Each April, Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) shines a spotlight on jazz music as both an historical and a living treasure. The special month aims to draw greater public attention to the extraordinary heritage of jazz and its importance to American culture.
The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History created JAM in 2002. In 2015 JAM celebrates the 100th birthday of composer Billy Strayhorn. The 2015 poster is based on a portrait of Strayhorn by artist Keith Henry Brown and depicts Stayhorn at the piano. In addition, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra will host a concert on April 11th called “Lush Life: Billy Strayhorn’s Centennial.” The Smithsonian will also present information about Strayhorn’s remarkable career.
Strayhorn’s compositions include: “Chelsea Bridge,” “Day Dream,” “Johnny Come Lately,” “Rain Check,” and “Clementine.” The pieces most frequently played are Ellington’s theme song, “Take the A Train,” and Ellington’s signatory, “Lotus Blossom.”
He also collaborated with Ellington on a number of suites including: “Deep South Suite,” the “Shakespearean Suite” or “Such Sweet Thunder,” an arrangement of the “The Nutcracker Suite,” and the “Peer Gynt Suite.” He and Ellington also composed the “Queen’s Suite,” and gave the only pressing during Ellington’s lifetime to Queen Elizabeth II of England.
In April, visit the Smithsonian Jazz’s new Facebook page to request a copy of the 2015 poster and for other JAM news. Visit the JAM website for more information on Strayhorn, jazz oral histories, a calendar of events, a variety of educational materials, and the feature, “This Day in Jazz.”
NAfME Partners with Jazz at Lincoln Center
Jazz is defined by collaboration, and the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) is collaborating with Jazz at Lincoln Center to bring jazz resources to NAfME members. Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) produces a year-round schedule of performance, education, and broadcast events for audiences of all ages. Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis is the JALC artistic director.
In 2014, NAfME and JALC formed a strategic partnership to provide NAfME members with education resources to enhance their ability to teach jazz and to better understand the importance of jazz as part of our collective history.
The first of those resources, Jazz Fundamentals from Lincoln Center are available on the NAfME website. There are a variety of educational resources on the JALC website as well.
- JALC curator Phil Schaap offers an eight-part series on the origins of jazz.
- Alto saxophonist Ted Nash shows ways to build an enjoyable and personalized practice routine.
JALC also offers other educational videos. Topics include:
- Practice techniques on the trumpet
- Playing scales using a metronome
- Getting to know your instrument
It’s Not Just for April:
NAfME Offers Jazz Resources Throughout the Year
NAfME believes in the importance of the study of jazz, and its Council for Jazz Education supports NAfME members and the jazz community by serving as an important resource to improve the quality of teaching and research in jazz education at all levels.
From 7-8 PM on Tuesday April 14, the Council will present a webinar, Building your Jazz Program from the Ground Up by David Kauffman, Fine Arts Coordinator for Allegany County, Maryland.
The session will look at challenges associated with establishing or improving an instrumental jazz program in underserved areas.
Topics will include: scheduling, setting realistic expectations and goals, equipment demands, music selection, listening, improvisation, skill development, working with your administration, and creating performance opportunities for your group.
The Council for Jazz Education is one of NAfME’s two Societies and 14 Councils that serve various NAfME constituencies.
Richard Victor chairs the council. A high school band director and coordinator of music for the State College Area School District, he began teaching at State College in 1975 and served as coordinator of music from 1988 until his retirement in 2011.
Roz Fehr, NAfME Communications Content Developer, March 12, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org).