Jazz Takes Center Stage Nationally, Internationally, and at the Department of Education

2014 JAM PosterJazz, that most American of art forms, takes center stage all of April as we celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) in the U.S. and throughout the world. Under the leadership of the Smithsonian Institution, JAM annually focuses on the music as well as its connections to America’s history and democratic values, including cultural diversity, creativity, innovation, discipline, and teamwork.

This year, JAM celebrates the 50th anniversary of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, a four-part suite that marked the melding of the hard bop sensibilities of the iconic saxophonist and composer’s early career with the free jazz style he later adopted. The annual JAM poster features Coltrane’s likeness, captured by American artist Joseph Holston from his screen print Jazz.

The Department of Education annually distributes the JAM posters to more than 16,000 middle schools in America. In a letter accompanied by the poster, OII’s Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Nadya Chinoy Dabby encourages the schools’ principals to participate in JAM activities taking place in the 50 states and to take advantage of the Smithsonian’s jazz collection and its many Web-based educational materials that support learning across the K-12 curriculum.

At the Department of Education, the Student Art Exhibit Program, in collaboration with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz (TMIJ), is presenting a jazz “informance” on April 4th for D.C. area students and teachers, JAM participants, and staff of the department. A jazz quartet from Arts High School in Newark, N.J., alma mater of such jazz greats as Wayne Shorter, Sarah Vaughan, Woody Shaw, and Melba Moore, will play a range of jazz styles and discuss the ways in which distinctly American values are inherently a part of the art form. Trumpeter, composer, and recording artist Terell Stafford joins the quartet, and J.B. Dyas, TMIJ’s vice president for education and curriculum development, helps to explain how a jazz ensemble represents a perfect democracy. For more information on attending the event, contact ED’s Nicole Carinci at Nicole.carinci@ed.gov.

Members of the Monk Institute’s National Performing Arts High School Program, (l. to r.) Sterlin Brown, Joseph Quiles, and Sabrina Dias, perform at the Department of Education in 2013. (Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood)

Members of the Monk Institute’s National Performing Arts High School Program, (l. to r.) Sterlin Brown, Joseph Quiles, and Sabrina Dias, perform at last year’s jazz “informance” in ED’s Departmental Auditorium. (Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood)

There are literally hundreds of ways to celebrate jazz this month. Whether you’re a teacher, band director, student, or parent, Smithsonian Jazz has ideas for you. Click here to get started.

Doug Herbert is a special assistant in the Office of Innovation and Improvement and editor of the OII home page.