High School Programs

JAZZistry's Integrated Program expands how high school students see their world... and themselves! Many participate in the culminating school program in performance and production roles.

The JAZZistry Integrated High School Program is for students in 9th-12th grades. You can see the confidence increase in the students above, as the slides move from classroom to rehearsal to final performance. These are school lessons they will never forget!

The complete High School Program includes:

  • A Teacher In-service Workshop
  • 5 Artist Visits coordinated with subject area teachers
  • Students undertake a Multiple Intelligences self-assessment
  • Students participate in pre- and post-production Jazzistry Band show
  • Rehearsals for students in the Band performance
  • A full band presentation that lasts one hour and ten minutes

Jazzistry reinforces American History, Language Arts & Humanities curricula.

History comes to life in every chapter of Jazzistry’s story. Example: American jazz spread to Europe after World War I when a group of African American soldiers became the jazz heroes of Paris. Lt. James Reese Europe had been ordered to do the job of bandleader as well as to serve as commanding officer of the Harlem Hellfighters, 15th Regiment Machine Gun Battalion.

Jazzistry shows how everyone has multiple talents and skills.

Vincent York uses his own life story to demonstrate to students how important it is to develop multiple skills. Students are introduced to Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences and take an on-line self-assessment to help determine their diverse skills. In the culminating Jazzistry Band performance, students assume many of the back- and front-of-the-house roles, including singers, musicians, dancers, MC, rappers, lighting, sound technician, graphic design, and stage management.

Jazz expresses deep feelings.

Music served as the outlet for emotions. For millions of enslaved African in the mid-1800s, spirituals and blues forms developed as their covert way of expressing joy, sorrow, desire, suffering, and hope. Under the yoke of oppression, self-expression survived and manifested itself in jazz as improvisation.

Jazz catches students off guard.

Surprised by the familiarity of the music heard in Jazzistry, students are also intrigued by the relationship of jazz to most forms of popular music today. Jazz Factoid: The last album, Doo-Bop, of jazz giant Miles Davis was released after his death in 1991 and contained the distinct and emphatic accents of rap and the dance rhythms of hip hop. We often hear students say, “I had no idea MY music was connected all the way back to history!”

Jazz gives a context for discussing complex social issues.

The long history of segregation in American influenced jazz’s texture and artistic direction. Despite how contact with other ethnicities overwhelmingly transformed American culture, governments worked to keep races separated and women in strict house-bound roles.

US racial integration of the culture was aided by Jazz:  For example, in 1937 Benny Goodman-The King of Swing-was invited to be the first jazz concert in prestigious Carnegie Hall, but was told to only bring the white musicians in his integrated band. He refused and Carnegie Hall eventually gave in. His band including Charlie Christian, Lionel Hampton and other greats. It was the first concert and recording with an integrated band (11 years ahead of Jackie Robinson integrating pro-baseball).

The Activism of Lady Day

High school students find the details of Billie Holiday’s life fascinating. At the peak of her career, she was the picture of glamorous, masking her early life of tragedy, addiction and poverty. Her unique voice has shadows of that  inner sadness.

At the peak of her career, Billie Holiday closed every show with the controversial song, “Strange Fruit,” a graphic anti-lynching song. In the fanciest nightclubs and theaters, she insisted on closing with this song. She used her position and fame to educate her audiences and make a powerful social commentary on the reality of Jim Crow South. Listen to this powerful song:


Lyrics of ‘Strange Fruit’:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swingin’ in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant South
The bulgin’ eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burnin’ flesh
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather
For the wind to suck
For the sun to rot
For the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
Songwriters: Lewis Allan
Strange Fruit lyrics © Edward B Marks Music Company, Marks Edward B. Music Co

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