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Curriculum & Resources: Jazz in America

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Jazz is recognized around the world for its rich cultural heritage rooted in the African-American experience. Since its inception in the early 20th century, jazz has contributed to and been a reflection of American culture. It is widely considered to be the only truly original American art form. Yet, most Americans graduate from high school with little knowledge of the history or importance of jazz. In order to provide an ongoing education about jazz for our nation's students, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz has developed Jazz in America, an Internet-based jazz curriculum for social studies, American history, and music classes in the United States.

Jazz in America has lesson plans for grades 5, 8 and 11. Some portions of these lessons are the same across all grade levels, like the Jazz Recordings, while others, such as handouts and exams are more tailored by grade level. We've chosen three great resources below that will engage and inspire students at all grade levels.



Here are just a few of Jazz in America's resources:

Miles Davis

Miles Davis performing at the New York Jazz Festival. Photo by Bob Parent.

Where Did Jazz Come From?

In this short introduction to the origins of jazz, you and your students will learn how African and European musical traditions collided in the city of New Orleans to create a distinctly American form of music.

EXPLORE Where Did Jazz Come From?



Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald performing at Storyville, Boston, Mass. Photo by Bob Parent.

Jazz Recordings

What better way to explore jazz than by listening to it? Play clips from famous jazz artists like Ella Fitzgerald or Duke Ellington and ask your students to write down their impressions. When you're finished, open up a discussion about the sounds you heard and the kinds of things the songs have in common.

EXPLORE Jazz Recordings


Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong with his band, Hot Five. Photo by Frank Driggs.

A Perfect Democracy

Have you ever considered what democracy sounds like? For Jazz in America, a "jazz combo is an example of a perfect democracy": each player exercises his or her own freedom while enhancing the experience of the group. This lesson gives you and your students a jazzy new way to look at how a democratic society works.

EXPLORE A Perfect Democracy


For additional learning materials, check out Jazz in America's Lesson Plans and Resources.

Jazz in AmericaJazz in America, a project of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, is a new Internet-based jazz curriculum for social studies, American history, and music classes in the United States. The mission of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz is to offer public school-based jazz education programs for young people around the globe, helping students develop imaginative thinking, creativity, curiosity, a positive self image, and a respect for their own and others' cultural heritage.

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The above resources accompany the January 2014 Education Connections Newsletter


READ NEWSLETTER: Hip Hop in the Classroom :: Kids on Caffeine Chart

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