Jazz Appreciation: Performing, Dancing, Listening

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate “America’s classical music” this April, here are ideas from MENC members. Hall High School students perform at the annual Pops ‘N Jazz concert.

School and Community Concerts

A concert can show off your jazz program and involve parents, friends, and younger students. Every year, Hall High School in West Hartford, Connecticut, presents the Pops ‘N Jazz concert, featuring jazz singers, jazz dancers, and two jazz bands. “Bringing people in to the school is an amazing thing. It’s a great inspiration for the students,” says MENC member and Hall High director of bands John Mastroianni. Haig Shahverdian, the show’s producer and West Hartford’s supervisor of fine and performing arts, creates the show along with Mastroianni and fellow artistic staff. The event is now in its 51st year and features a blend of jazz and popular music, including commissioned pieces. Middle school students perform alongside the high schoolers, and elementary teachers nominate “All-Star” musicians to receive onstage recognition. Thanks to a generous endowment, top jazz artists perform at the event. The lineup for this year includes Curtis Fuller, Jimmy Greene, and Tony Kadleck. Parent volunteers take care of everything from selling tickets to assisting guest artists. “The parent support is mind-boggling,” says Mastroianni. The concert jazz band students also perform big band music at a senior citizen dance. The event is sponsored by The Bridge, an organization that brings different age groups together through music.

Collegiate Concerts

Along with her Geneva College chapter, member Bethany Moslen participates in a jazz concert each April with big band music from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. “Our program is very enjoyable and educational, since we have a narrator that tells the audience about each song we play, who wrote it, when and why it was played,” Moslen says.

Listening Activities

“Dr. [Willie] Hill suggests having students in the individual sections of the band each buy an important CD featuring a player of their instrument,” Massachusetts Music News jazz education editor Paul Combs writes. He notes that students can also

  • Swap jazz CDs from different periods and styles and discuss what they’re hearing.
  • Use Internet music and video sites like YouTube and Jazz-On-Line to experience the music of classic and contemporary jazz artists.
  • Visit Warp Videos to view performances by Count Basie, Miles Davis, Herb Ellis, and many others.

Teachers can

  • Assign students to find performances by specific artists and share their results with the class.
  • Establish a blog for students to discuss music they find on the Web outside of class.

Additional Resources

Visit MENC’s Jazz Appreciation Month page. Read the article, “Jazz Appreciation Month Gains New Support from MENC Society” on page 9 of the April issue of Teaching Music.

Visit Amplify to ask jazz mentors your teaching questions.

John Mastroianni is in his tenth year as director of bands at Hall High School in West Hartford, Connecticut. Fellow artistic staff for the Pops ‘N Jazz concert include Haig Shahverdian, producer and supervisor of fine and performing arts; Lorri Cetto, vocal director; Darlene Zoller, choreographer; Eileen Shahverdian, lighting; and Scott Sampietro, technical director. Learn more about the Hall jazz program. Bethany Moslen is a senior trumpet player at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. The information on listening activities is excerpted from the article “Updating Some Good Advice” by Paul Combs, originally printed in the Spring 2009 issue of Massachusetts Music News. Used with permission. –Anne Wagener, March 25, 2009, ©  National Association for Music Education