Thursday, November 27, 2014

Jazz Songs, Elementary Music, Together at Last!

Teaching jazz in elementary school is a no brainer!  Jazz is, most certainly, America's music. It is elemental.  It is part of our collective heritage. It is the Music most representative of our multi-cultural society.  Influences from every culture and nation that is a part of our great melting pot can be found in this great music.

Justifications are easy. It's not the why, but the how that is of importance to music teachers across the country.  Teaching jazz history is one way to approach the how, but even more important is the playing of jazz music, coupled with the history and background of what is being played.

All jazz music has a historical context.  Every type of jazz music has a style, a groove, a cultural influence, a story that must be addressed.  Dr. Patrick Ware of Woodbridge, Virginia, has addressed this important method for teaching jazz in his book, Here's Two - Original Jazz Songs for the Elementary Classroom
Here’s Two gives students the exciting opportunity to connect to their own musical heritage. Jazz is America’s classical music. Born of cross-cultural connections, improvisation and unprecedented creativity, Jazz music is much like your classroom. Use these pieces as a vehicle to take your students to a wonderful place they may never have gone. As Cab Calloway said “Get in the groove and go.”
Patrick has created ten original songs in various styles and grooves that are all directly related to the traditions of jazz.  Each song is a teaching/learning moment.  Students can play, improvise, dance and sing while they are learning about the great traditions of American jazz music. Dr. Ware provides sources and listening activities that help children with the context for each song.  He also includes examples or models of each song that can be played for the students. One of the basic tenets of Orff Schulwerk is this idea of using models of indigenous music to improvise and create new compositions.

The title song Here's Two is patterned after Duke Ellington’s tune, I let a song go out of my heart with   lyrics by Irving Mills.  In the section of the lesson plan called "Take a Listen," Patrick points out the use of the off-beat groove. Listen:

In another example: New House 416, named for a new house address of Patrick and his family, models Long, Long Summer by Dizzy Gillespie. It features a Latin groove contrasting with a swing solo section.  Give a listen:


Playing jazz on Orff instruments presents a unique problem that Dr. Ware addresses head on.  There simply aren't enough notes on the diatonic instruments to get the extra notes often needed to achieve the jazz sound.  Patrick has provided a complete setup for each instrument used in each song.  The arrangement of the bars sets up the jazz or blues scales used in each piece.  This is a unique approach enabling the jazz songs to be played in several different keys.  The idea is simply an extension of the common Orff approach of adapting the instruments for the pentatonic scales.  

Here's Two presents a unique and very playable, child-centered set of original jazz songs perfect for the jazz component in your curriculum.  It is available at Beatin' Path Publications LLC.

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