Wynton Marsalis Teaches Children Jazz At Lincoln Center
On a recent Saturday afternoon at the Rose Theater in the Time Warner Center, many children squirmed in their seats while a baby wailed from the balcony. It was not long before the children’s voices were replaced by the playful notes of a trumpet as the legendary Wynton Marsalis approached the stage. Kicking off the annual Jazz for Young People® concerts with “Who Is Thelonious Monk?”, Marsalis had a story to tell his audience.
Part music lesson/jazz concert, Marsalis and several other musicians introduced the audience to the music of the famous pianist, the late Thelonious Sphere Monk. Starting with “Green Chimneys”, a song Monk wrote for his daughter, Marsalis released an upbeat, swinging melody that spread across the theater. In one hour Marsalis played several of Monk’s compositions with tenor saxophonist Walter Blanding Jr., pianist Jonathan Batiste, bassist Carlos Henriquez and drummer Ali Jackson.
During the show, Marsalis often addressed the audience to explain how Monk earned his reputation for originality. “Repeat after me: develop the unexpected,” ordered Marsalis as he looked out at the crowd. “Thelonious Monk played his own way. He often said, ‘you play what you want and let the public pick up on what you’re doing.’”
Like Monk, Marsalis had to overcome the public’s skepticism before gaining recognition as an artist with a unique musical vision. Marsalis is largely credited for reviving an interest in mainstream jazz music among young musicians. He was the first jazz musician to win the Pulitzer Prize in music, for his oratorio on the subject of slavery, Blood on the Fields. As Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and leader of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Marsalis continues to inspire a new generation of musicians to discover their own rhythms.
In addition to teaching the audience about Monk’s music, Marsalis also gave a lesson on Monk’s signature dance move, the turkey wing. Marsalis told everyone to stand up and demonstrated how to move your elbow forward while punching the air in a downwards motion. It was difficult to tell who was more enthusiastic – the children or the adults. “There are some old children here,” teased Marsalis when he noticed a greater number of adults imitating his movements.
Celebrating its 17th season, the blend of entertainment and education is what continues to draw families to the Jazz for Young People® concerts, explained Bridget Wilson, Public Relations Associate at Jazz at Lincoln Center. “Children enjoy the great music by Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra musicians, and enjoy the humor and welcoming atmosphere set by Wynton Marsalis and our other hosts,” she said.
After the concert was over, Marsalis and his fellow musicians received mixed reviews from their youngest critics. Natalie Miggins, 8, who attended the show with her parents, said it was “sorta fun”. Christopher Victor, 9, decided that he was “addicted to jazz music”. “That was the best show ever – I love jazz!”#