Jazz day at 24th Street Elementary

By Lauren Jones

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

imageThe Los Angeles Jazz Society is hosting concerts at three LAUSD elementary schools as part of the Black History Month celebration. These concerts are a part of a larger initiative to bring jazz programs to public schools.

The sounds of Louis Armstrong, Count Bassie, and Ella Fitzgerald filled the 24th Street Elementary School auditorium. Students received a unique crash course on the history of jazz in America.

Delbert Taylor is a piano player and a member of the Los Angeles Jazz Society. He performed this morning with a band that included people from all walks of life.

He emphasized the importance of jazz as a part of American culture, but he made sure to explain that this style of music is a melting pot much like his band members.

“Jazz doesn’t care what country or language you speak,” said Taylor. “It doesn’t care what your ethnicity is, it’s all playing the music from your heart.”

Taylor says artistic expression is an important part of the educational experience for students. Budget cuts have eliminated many public school’s music programs.

“With jazz and not only jazz, but with dance, acting, making paintings and things of that nature, these are all very important or a child to be able to get out there and express themselves,” said Taylor. “This is just one mode of expression that we’re championing at this point.”

Taylor explained the evolution of music and how jazz evolved as a product of African-American people’s struggle in the United States.

“A long time ago, a very bad thing happened here and that thing is slavery,” said Taylor. “Out of that bad thing something good came like songs, music, negro spirituals, then Gospel, then Swing, then Jazz, then Rock n’ Roll, R&B, Hip Hop and Rap.”

By the end of the performance, students were singing along, clapping, laughing and raising their hands to answer trivia questions. As the exited the auditorium many of them stopped to thank their teachers.

Renee Dolberry is the principal at 24th Street Elementary School. She says this program is one of the only times her students are exposed to music in school.

“This year our music teacher was cut, so we do not have a music program at 24th this school year,” said Dolberry. “This is such a great opportunity for our boys and girls to be exposed to the jazz music.”

Exposing kids to jazz is music to the ears of Robert Smith. He is a Jazz Studies professor at the University of Southern California and a recording artist.

“The more we can expose kids at an early age to music and particularly the music of our culture, the more it will become a component of substance in our culture,” said Smith. “It has to be bred, cultivated, and nurtured.”

Smith says college campuses are experiencing a wave of students interested in traditional American Jazz. It is an integral part of American history and is still weaving itself into contemporary culture.

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