Jazz Lessons That Tell The Story

Jazz lessons can provide a look into history, and a way to talk about present day jazz musicians.

By Cathy Neushul

Jazz Lesson

Having students take a walk through the history of jazz can be a fun and interesting experience. It's always a good time to listen to some music featuring Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, or Ella Fitzgerald. But there's something else to keep in mind. While it's important to learn about the music itself, and what makes it different from ragtime, or rock and roll, it's also a good idea to get a historical perspective on the subject.

Jazz was an outgrowth, and response to, the events of the time, including World War II and segregation. Muscicians, and their fans, faced segregation and hardships on a daily basis. The lives of the most popular jazz singers of the time can also provide some interesting discussions. Ella Fitzgerald, a teenage orphan living in New York, entered a amateur night competition, and started her meteoric rise. 

While not as pervasive as it once was, jazz is still a force. Students might enjoy listening to modern jazz innovations. All About Jazz has downloads of some great modern musicians. And don't forget, jazz lessons give you an excuse to listen to some great music both you, and your students, can enjoy.


Ella Fitzgerald: Something to Live For: In this lesson students learn about jazz through various artists, including Ella Fitzgerald. They hear performances by various artists, and learn about the characteristics of different styles of jazz.

Interview with the Stars: In this lesson students pick a jazz great to become an expert on, and then write the script for a talk show interview. This is a great way to get student to learn about jazz. They get to pick their favorite artist, do research, and present their information in a creative format.

Jazz Talk: In this lesson students learn about spirituals, blues, and gospel songs in order to better understand the origins of jazz music. In addition, students read poetry by African American artists and write their own. This is an interesting way to get students thinking about jazz, and how it relates to history.

Jazz and World War II:A Rally to Resistance, A Catalyst for Victory: This lesson explores the connection between jazz and the history of the time. Students learn how World War II and jazz influenced the people of the time. This lesson has some great links to everything you'd want to know about jazz history. It also takes the discussion of jazz to a different level by infusing critical thinking opportunities.

Duking It Out: Exploring Duke Ellington and Jazz Along with Other Composers and Musical Styles: In this lesson students write a musical review after learning about Duke Ellington and Edvard Grieg. They get to choose a favorite artist or group. The extension activities suggested offer a great way to have students learn even more about jazz.



Art and Music Guide

Cathy Neushul