by Teresa & Paul Jennings
"Born in America, oh so long ago, jazz is music ev'ryone should know." Or at least every American should know! To help you teach this important musical subject to your students, this year's all-school revue is Jazz. Of course, the subject is enormous - and ongoing - so there's no way we can cover all of it. But what we can do is provide a basic overview of its origins which will hopefully lead to further investigation, discussion, and learning. Jazz is a fascinating topic, and the more opportunity you have to dig into it, the more your students will learn just how much influence it has had on the evolution of music as a whole since its inception - and not just in America.
The revue itself will be included in two issues of Music K-8 this year: the first (this one) and the third. Typically, we also include some of the annual revue in our second issue. But this year, we are dedicating that issue entirely to seasonal music. Even so, the third issue will complete the revue with more music, a script, a teacher's guide, etc.
To kick it off, we have a sizzling opening song, also called "Jazz." You really should use our superb Performance/Accompaniment recording for this tune, if for no other reason than to share Paul's great jazz arrangement with your students. In fact, Paul will be doing most of the arranging of Teresa's songs for this revue because, as we have bragged many times in the past, he is a world-class arranger whose specialty just happens to be jazz. Lucky us!
Right out of the gate, you could have your students listen to the instrumental tracks for the song and identify various aspects of the tune. What instruments do they hear? While jazz can be performed by anything from a soloist to a small group to a large ensemble, in this case, we used a typical jazz ensemble or "big band." What instrumentation would this include? (Ours includes the basics: saxes, trumpets, trombones, and rhythm.) Can they hear and identify each group of instruments?
The song is in unison so that you can focus on the lyrics and style. It talks about what jazz is from the standpoint of history. It also touches on some of the elements that make it jazz, like swing and improvisation. Any of these elements are great jumping off points for you to go deeper, if you wish.
The best way to teach/learn the piece is to have students listen to our singers while reading the music. Discuss the nuances like the falls, the scoops, and the fact that all eighth notes swing.
This song would be a natural for movement if you use it in a performance setting. If you have dancers and room to feature them, all the better. But if you are contained on risers, etc., you may need to keep movements simple and somewhat basic. For example, every time they sing "Jazz" with the fall, have them make jazz hands (with arms bent rather than straight so they don't inadvertently hit each other in close quarters). Jazz hands are hands that are opened, palm outward toward the audience, with splayed fingers. You can embellish on this if you like by having them add a little shake to their hands when they do it. Other times in the song, they can do slight shoulder lifts to the beat, alternating left to right. Or you can have them snap their fingers - on beats two and four is appropriate for a swing tune.
During the section at measure 51, they are listening to what the jazz ensemble is doing as they state each element, such as rhythm. Have them do a slight knee bend, placing their hands on their knees and bouncing lightly to the beat. As each element is performed, they can put their hands to their ears (just one ear at a time is more visually effective) to demonstrate they are listening to that element.
For the final "Jazz," they can punctuate it with jazz hands as usual. But this time, have them put their hands straight up or out in front. If they go up, they can let their hands "fall" from up to down with the musical fall.
Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.