Saturday, March 17, 2007

All that jazz

On Friday, I was one of the parent escorts on a class field trip to hear a terrific jazz concert. The trip was the culmination of a very cool history and music project the class was doing, known as "Operation Jazz Band." I was really impressed.

You can check out the main artist, Babatunde Lea, here. His site explains that ""Operation Jazz Band is a week-long course in which a 5 piece professional Jazz band takes up a one-week residency in a school to offer students hands-on experience with jazz theory, instrumentation, improvising and vocalization." What that meant to Caroline's class was that each afternoon, one or two members of the band would come to class, bring their instruments, and talk about jazz, its development in American history and its evolution from the music brought to the US by enslaved Africans, explain what part their instrument played in the ensemble, and encourage the kids to have fun and make music. Caroline came home one afternoon bursting with excitement and eager to play the drums.

By Friday, the kids had met all of the performers and had sung some of the songs. So, all of the 5th grade classes in the community gathered at the local theater to hear the band play. When the band started in playing Duke Ellington numbers and their own compositions, the audience was a sea of finger-snapping, clapping, bee-bobbing 5th graders. It was really fun to see.

In these days when budget cuts and federal testing requirements are forcing public schools to eliminate everything but the bare-bones test content, I was really delighted to see this terrific program come to Healdsburg's schools.

The event also is a great lead-in to a big community event here, the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. There's a lot of jazz going on around town, from now through the summer. Check out the Festival website if you're in Northern California and want to come, taste wine, and hear good music.

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