Black History Month: The Development of Jazz
Although not strictly an African-American music form, jazz has been heavily influenced by the black community, starting with its earliest roots and continuing into the present time. Students should become familiar with jazz not only for its crucial place in music history but also because of its significance in twentieth century cultural history, and particularly the history of black culture in the United States.
Time Frame: 4-6 hours, not including the final group project
- Read and answer questions about the early development of jazz.
- Read about the jazz scene in 1930s Harlem and answer questions.
- Research basic information about jazz styles.
- Listen to some jazz excerpts on the Internet.
- Research and describe six influential black jazz musicians.
- Prepare a group report on a black jazz musician and present the report to the class along with samples of that person's music.
- Have students listen to a jazz program on the radio. Ask them to listen for names and styles that they recognize based on what they've learned in this activity.
- Arrange for the class to see a jazz performance, whether professional or at school, and then talk to the musicians about what they like best about jazz, who their favorite musicians are, etc. This could be a valuable way to introduce students to the idea of taking up an instrument and playing some jazz themselves.