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Education at Jazz at Lincoln Center
By Todd Stoll


Jazz at Lincoln Center has one of the most diverse education programs in our cultural landscape, and is one of the three pillars of our mission; performance, education, and advocacy. From preschool classes to sheet music publishing to presentations in senior centers, we embody the concept of “jazz education is good for everyone”! Our holistic approach, embracing the entire history of jazz, New Orleans to avant garde, is rooted in the concepts of swing, improvisation, and the blues. We also believe that teachers need better resources and that one needs an understanding of jazz from a historical perspective. During the past year, our education initiatives produced over 2700 individual events that were attended by more than 100,000 “students” of all ages!

First, our classes; they start with our popular WeBop series that engages children and a caregiver as young as 8 months up to 5 years old. These lessons teach jazz styles, jazz friends, and jazz instruments in an interactive and engaging classroom full of singing, dancing, and swinging!

Our youth programs, Middle School Jazz Academy and Youth Ensembles, are direct instruction for young musicians wanting to go deeper into jazz performance. JALC has three locations for our middle school programs which meet on Saturday mornings, with classes in jazz language, jazz history, jazz ensemble, and private lessons. The youth ensembles for high school students, consist of 3 big bands of varying levels of ability and multiple jazz combos. All of our youth programs are tuition free and reach a large segment of students from undeserved communities.

Swing University is our popular jazz history and listening series of classes curated by the great historian Phil Schaap and feature some of the world’s best jazz experts, scholars and artists, who teach evening classes on topics ranging from Ragtime to BeBop to Avant Garde.

Our Jazz Academy Media Library features the largest collection of freely available online jazz lessons in the world. Founded in 2013, these short video lessons cover topics of interest of individual musicians of various levels, family activities, and jazz history. And of course there are master classes and workshops for visiting bands both here in NYC and on the road. We are never far from colleagues who search us out for the specific needs of their high school or college band and want an interactive educational experience with one of the members of the JLCO! In any city we visit on tour, our philosophy is to activate as much education around our performance as is feasible, and help build the local community as well.

Next up, our popular Jazz for Young People concerts, based on Leonard Bernstein’s shows, and written by Wynton Marsalis, are presented at Rose Theater (and on the road with the JLCO) each year and teach children, parents, and families about jazz in a larger concert setting. Since 1992, JALC has produced over 50 themed shows, in nearly 250 performances to audiences of more than a quarter of a million! Additionally, our Jazz for Young People on Tour outreach program, does more than 300 performances each year in schools, community centers, senior centers, and various other venues. Our J4YP curriculum, published in 2001, has been popular with thousands of school teachers around the country, and is being renewed with a video component for 2015.

Finally, The Essentially Ellington program, the signature educational initiative for JALC is perhaps our most wide ranging. Focused on supplying quality literature for school jazz bands around the country, over the past twenty years, EE has published 120 never before available scores by Duke Ellington and other seminal composers, and distributed more than 150,000 free copies to more than 4000 different high schools. Each year, we hold a national level festival and competition that chooses the top 15 high school jazz bands to come to NYC for a weekend celebration of the music hosted by Wynton and the JLCO. Additionally, the EE network of 15 regional festivals allows schools in many communities to have a “local” experience with our pedagogy in a noncompetitive and educationally focused environment. EE also sponsors outreach workshops in schools and communities with limited resources and access to world class artists. Stemming from these experiences with band directors and music teachers came the creation of our Band Director Academy, now in its 14th year. This four day professional develop opportunity attracts directors and teachers from around the country and as far away as China and South America. We recently added a west coast site for BDA to allow for more participation.

And, coming up in July of 2015, Jazz at Lincoln Center presents the Summer Jazz Academy at Castleton. Held on the estate of renowned conductor Lorin Maazel , and site of the Castleton Festival, Wynton Marsalis and a group of renowned faculty will teach the best young jazz artists in a two week intensive academy that will inspire and shape their lives and the future of this music.

Jazz at Lincoln Center’s educational programs have something for everyone; we don’t believe in a generation gap, or segregation between styles or people. Come check us out, at http://academy.jazz.org

Todd Stoll is the Vice President of Education at the Jazz at Lincoln Center.



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