'Jazz from A to Z' project recaptures iconic American era

Now in its second year, the Jazz from A to Z project uses jazz as a primary source in teaching American history to Mesa junior high and high school students. 

The program – organized by Marcie Hutchinson, history education project director at ASU – provides teachers and students in the Mesa public schools with a series of workshops and jazz clinics led by professional jazz musicians, lectures by ASU professors, band director’s academy and jam sessions, and professional jazz performances at the Mesa Arts Center. 

Through study, engagement and performance, Jazz from A to Z aims to enrich the historical and cultural knowledge of students and teachers through an integrated study of both jazz music and American/European history. Lessons engage students in analytical and historical thinking and create a comprehensive program to help improve and prepare Mesa jazz bands for the submission of a competitive Essentially Ellington entry. This cross-curricular approach in humanities education encourages a meaningful appreciation of one of America’s greatest cultural resources: jazz.

Taking a note from the qualities of jazz, and using the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz in the Schools curriculum as a guide, this project provides opportunities for students and educators to improvise, analyze, synthesize, engage in collaboration, develop an individual voice, and broaden cultural perspectives.  

The Jazz from A to Z project welcomes all to the 2011-2012 opening event “The Miles Davis Experience: From the Birth of the Cool to Kind of Blue, 1949-59” to take place at 7:30 p.m., at the Mesa Arts Center, on Oct. 14. Tickets are available at the Mesa Arts Center website.

The event will recapture the sound, historical and cultural context of this critical period of American history through jazz and its most iconic innovator, Miles Davis. The show includes live music performed in the manner it was first presented, with era photos and film clips brought together by a beat poet-style narrator. This show is produced in conjunction with Miles Davis Properties, LLC. and features Blue Note Recording Artist Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet.

Throughout the 2011-2012 school year, students and educators will continue to participate in project performances, clinics, lectures and workshops leading up to jazz appreciation month in April 2012 at the Mesa Arts Center with a regional student jazz festival and a student-created pubic history project display. 

The Jazz from A to Z project is possible as a result of generous funding from the Boeing Corporation, the Helios Education Foundation / William C. Jenkins History Fund, Mesa’s Teaching American History Grant, and the Mesa Arts Center with additional support from ASU's School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.