ED’s Second Annual Jazz Informance Celebrating America’s Music and Values

Monk_JAM

As part of Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), the Department hosted its second annual jazz informance (an informational performance) on April 4th with a full house of D.C. public charter school students, educators, arts leaders, and ED staff—jazz lovers and jazz novices alike. Under the direction of J.B. Dyas, vice president for education and curriculum development at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, students from Arts High School in Newark, N.J., part of the National Performing Arts High School Jazz Program, and special guest recording artist, trumpeter Terell Stafford, director of Jazz Studies and chair of Instrumental Studies at Temple University, performed during the event.

ED’s acting General Counsel Phil Rosenfelt gave opening remarks on how the Department’s inaugural Monk informance in 2013 broadened his musical horizons and finally allowed him to appreciate jazz—something that had eluded him his entire life. “I saw the individuality and the unity, working together, in innovative ways, to address a common goal. I finally got it. And it was special that I got it at the Department where we value learning so much—breaking out of our barriers and stereotypes and comfort zones … and that’s what jazz and the Department are all about,” said Rosenfelt.

In the informational portion of the event, Dyas explained that jazz was born in America and is, “America’s greatest artistic gift to the world,” enjoyed by people of every ethnicity on every continent. He described the improvisational process—90 percent of every jazz performance—as a conversation, both among the musicians and between the musicians and the audience, using music instead of words. Dyas later asked the musicians to illustrate this conversation as they “talked” to one another with their instruments.

As Dyas said, jazz represents important values that students need to learn, such as “teamwork and unity with ethnic diversity.” Students from the Monk jazz program, in a recorded video, spoke of the many positive qualities they have learned through playing jazz.  Among them are:

  • A sense of responsibility within a group
  • Drive to become a better musician
  • Ambition to pursue music education in college
  • Greater knowledge of other cultures
  • Collaboration

The Arts High Jazz Quartet comprising Rahsaan Pickett on guitar, Galo Inga on piano, Joseph Quiles on bass, and Derek Fykes on drums, joined by Stafford, played an up-tempo selection of tunes.  These included Herbie Hancock’s Cantaloupe Island, Dexterity by Charlie Parker, and Ask Me Now by Thelonious Monk. The playing was lively and nicely balanced, while solo breaks gave each performer a chance to shine.  The performers created a textural, musical journey with variances in speed, tempo and rhythm over a sustained steady flow.

After the informance, the student performers answered questions from the students in the audience, including, “Why did you start playing music?” Fykes’ answer: “It’s something I love. It has to be a passion.” And, “How much do you practice?” Answer: Several hours daily, including doing a lot of listening.

All in attendance thoroughly appreciated hearing such great music and learning how it is performed, as evidenced by the frequent toe-tapping and spontaneous applause!  And another jazz convert was born.

Sarah Sisaye of OESE wrote: “Before today, I wasn’t too crazy about jazz. I grew up listening to it, but having played the flute for 9 years, I am more comfortable with classical music. However, the performance/lecture today, made it very accessible. I will definitely be listening to more jazz! I even won a poster [of John Coltrane] and was able to get all the musicians to sign it—I’ll be hanging that on my wall!”

For more about the Department’s involvement with JAM, click here.

View photos from the event.

Nicole Carinci is a management and program analyst in the Office of Communications and Outreach

Research Suggests Positive Impact of Music Education

studentIn talking about the need for a well-rounded education, Secretary Duncan has consistently invoked the importance of keeping arts in the mix. Over the past three years, researchers at Northwestern University have teamed up with the Harmony Project, a nonprofit instrumental music program based in Los Angeles, as well as public charter schools in Chicago, to investigate just how important the arts are to learning.

Harmony Project works with students, such as Fatima Salcido, who enrolled in group violin classes during middle school.  Since then, she has been a high achiever. Through diligent practice, Fatima earned her way into private lessons and membership in the Hollywood Youth Orchestra, one of Harmony Project’s most elite ensembles. In addition to these activities, during her last two years of high school Fatima gave weekly private violin instruction to a less-advanced musician as a volunteer peer mentor. Fatima has gone on to earn a full four-year scholarship to Tulane University, where she is currently a neuroscience pre-med major and a member of the Tulane University orchestra.

Looking at Fatima’s success and that of others in Harmony Project, Northwestern is conducting a longitudinal study that investigates the impact of music education on child and adolescent brain development. In particular, neuroscientists are evaluating how music education affects learning skills, communication abilities, and biological development in underserved, grade-school-aged children participating in Harmony’s mentoring program.

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Reimagining Learning in Philadelphia

Jeff Scott and Students

Engineering doctoral candidate Jeffrey Scott instructs students during the workshop on Music Information Retrieval at Drexel University in Philadelphia

It’s “full steam ahead” for Philadelphia area high school students participating in Drexel University’s Summer Music Technology program focused on connecting technology with the arts.

For the past seven years, more than 150 aspiring young engineers and musicians have participated in hands-on, multi-media workshops funded in part with a National Science Foundation grant and housed in the College of Engineering. This year, with continued support from private funding, 28 students attended a week-long session at Drexel’s new Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center. The Center is a hub where teams of faculty, students, and entrepreneurs collaborate on multi-disciplinary projects in a variety of fields.  It’s part of a nationwide effort to enrich teaching and learning in the science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – fields, by adding a focus on the arts. Supporters have dubbed this approach STEAM.

Students at Drexel

Students Brandon Tran and Chia Chen, with Dr. Youngmoo Kim, demonstrate musical instruments produced in a 3D printer at the ExCITe Center.

“Our goal here is to explore the benefits of arts-integrated research and learning, or STEAM education, for everyone, from ‘K to gray.’ We especially work with young high school students and hope that the things they learn here will help them make good career choices,” said the Center’s director, Dr. Youngmoo Kim.

In one workshop led by Jeffrey Scott, a doctoral candidate in engineering, students learned about Music Information Retrieval (MIR) and worked in groups to develop playlists, label and tag features of songs, and create a collaborative filtering system. MIR is a growing field that develops efficient and intelligent methods to analyze, retrieve and organize music. Dr. Kim hopes this kind of targeted, experiential learning will develop future engineers.

The workshops aren’t just for fun: the approach has attracted several aspiring engineers to pursue higher education and the STEAM fields.

Seth Nicosia, a current sophomore at Drexel’s College of Engineering, attended the summer engineering program in 2010, and attributes his decision to major in engineering to that experience. “I have always been interested in music, and the Summer Music Technology program showed me how I could apply my musical knowledge in new and practical ways,” said Nicosia. “The program motivated me to enroll in college and major in engineering.”

Drexel’s ExCITe Center is a feast of fun for anyone interested in innovative, engaging research in technology and the arts.  There’s a magnetic resonator piano that allows the piano to create sounds that were previously impossible on the instrument. There’s a life-size robot that students program to play percussion.  There’s Darwin, a soccer-playing robot. And, there’s a 3D printer that students use to make musical instruments.

This May, at a conference titled, “Reimagining Education: Empowering Learners in the 21st Century,” Secretary Duncan emphasized the need to create a bold new vision for our classrooms. “Our students need to experiment, engage, and create in the areas they find truly exciting. Schools are a crucial part of that vision, and better access to technology and the worlds that technology puts at our fingertips, is an essential part of this work,” said Duncan. “To accomplish this, we need mentors, employers and artists working together in new ways to get all of our students involved and interested in their own learning.”

Clearly, this vision for high-quality STEAM education is helping to power Drexel’s ExCITe Center, as it fast-track students to academic and career success.

Elizabeth Williamson is a supervisory education program specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach in Philadelphia.

Strumming and Drumming with Local Students and Music Educators at ED

The percussive rhythm of tambourines and African drums as well as the sound of ukuleles and acoustic guitars filled the outdoor plaza at the Department of Education on Tuesday, May 10, when the nonprofit National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) brought its “Strumming and Drumming for Music Education” program to Washington. The event aimed to promote local student talent and raise awareness about the importance of music education in our nation’s schools.

Students from George Fox and Lime Kiln Middle Schools in Maryland showed off their skill in a large drum circle, led by musicians Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, a two-time Grammy-Award-winning duo.   Joining the students in their music-making were NAMM representatives; local music educators; former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley; former New York Yankee Bernie Williams; as well as Peter Cunningham, assistant secretary of communications and outreach; and Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary of innovation and improvement. ED employees and passersby were encouraged to pick up a ukulele or drum and join in the outdoor jam session.

Earlier this month, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) released its landmark report, Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools. The culmination of 18 months of research, meetings with stakeholders, and site visits throughout the country, this report reviews the current condition of arts education in America’s schools and reaffirms recent studies that have shown a link between high-quality arts programming and increased student achievement.

For more information about NAMM and its initiatives, please visit here. For additional details regarding the PCAH report and its findings, please select this link.

See photos

Tiffany Taber
Office of Communications and Outreach