Jazz for Everyone

“The mission of  National Association for Music Education is to advance music education by encouraging the study and making of music by all.”

Well, what about jazz, you say? Glad you asked. In June 2008, MENC formed the Society for Jazz Education to serve the jazz education community and provide a platform for the promotion of “America’s classical music.”

“So, how do we, as music educators, offer jazz experiences to all of our music students?” asks Sam Bergstrom, former Minnesota MEA Jazz Chair. “Here are some ideas for applying the concept of ‘jazz for everyone’ across the music curriculum, that go beyond the elite extracurricular jazz ensembles.”

Jazz in Classroom Music
· Listening to a variety of jazz styles, periods, and artists
· Linking with a multicultural curriculum, African-American History Month
· Encouraging improvisation, especially with pentatonic scales, Orff instruments,
keyboard (black keys are a great place to start!)
· Improvisation linked with poetry or stories – reacting with music to action or descriptive words,
telling a story or painting a picture through rhythm, tempo, and melodic shape

Jazz in Choral Ensembles
· Incorporating jazz standards into concert repertoires for all ensembles
· Listening to recordings of those standards by different artists in different styles, comparing and
contrasting approaches, mood, instrumentation, groove, etc.
· Exploring arrangers like Ward Swingle (Swingle Singers’ “Swingle Bells” collections are perfect
for some fresh holiday concert energy)
· Exploring the amazing arrangements available through the Barbershop Societies and Sweet
Adelines (mostly TTBB or SSAA, respectively) and local performing ensembles (fantastic
inspiration for recruiting and retaining singers!)

Jazz in Instrumental Ensembles
· Thinking beyond the traditional elite, instrument-specific jazz band
· Adding an additional jazz ensemble utilizing non-traditional instruments
· Involving students in a jazz combo or other small-group experiences
· Listening to jazz recordings by nontraditional instrumentalists (Herbie Mann, flute;
Stephane Grappelli and Jean-Luc Ponty, violin; the Mingus Big Band for cool tuba parts!)
· Listening to recordings or attending performances by nontraditional ensembles with
jazz/improvisation tendencies (Dirty Dozen Brass BandTurtle Island String Quartet)
· Allowing nontraditional instrumentalists into your elite jazz ensembles, substituting them for
more traditional instruments (often newer charts will include alternate parts for flute, tuba,
French horn, etc.)
· Enabling those motivated students to cross over from their first instrument to a traditional jazz
instrument (flute to saxophone; French horn or tuba to trombone or trumpet)

Jazz for Traditionally Under-Involved Students
· “Garage Band” or general improvisation workshops for those students not involved in band,
especially guitarists, bassists, pianists, and percussionists, perhaps sparking those students
to become involved in other ensembles
· Female students can sometimes be underrepresented in traditional jazz ensembles, often
because of instrument preferences, but also possibly due to lack of role models – directors can
seek out recordings of women artists (not just vocalists!) like Carla BleyMaria Schneider, and
Marian McPartland
· Approaching improvisation from a theoretical standpoint and offering step-by-step
methodologies encouraging all students to feel comfortable experimenting and performing in
that context

“ ‘Jazz for everyone’ can be a reality in our music curriculum,” concludes Bergstrom. “With a commitment and investment on our part as educators, it can only help to fulfill our goal of creating music appreciators, as well as performers. Incorporating jazz allows students to better understand the popular, folk, and indigenous music that surrounds them outside of the classroom or rehearsal hall, allowing them to apply traditional Western musical knowledge to different cultures and contexts.”

Adapted from “JAZZ for Everyone” by Sam Bergstrom, originally published in Fall 2006 Interval

Sam Bergstrom teaches at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids, MN. He and his wife, Melissa, who chairs the Music Department, both play in the Anoka-Ramsey Music Faculty Jazz Sextet—guitar and flute, respectively.

—Nick Webb, January 26, 2010 © National Association for Music Education