Swinging beats, improvisational melodies, and ear-pleasing harmonies are all hallmarks of jazz. The quintessentially American art form channels the feeling of freedom, invokes the spirit of creativity, and puts a premium on collaboration and teamwork, all inherent values of democracy and essential ingredients of the American experience.
Each April, Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) puts the national spotlight on jazz, highlighting its history and special place in American culture. The aim is to draw attention to this unique musical style through performances, special events, and educational opportunities.
As in years past, the Department of Education is informing more than 14,000 public middle schools of the educational opportunities that accompany the celebration of this uniquely American art form. In late March, the Department distributed a letter from Secretary Arne Duncan to all middle school administrators, encouraging local participation by their schools in JAM.
Titled The Spirit and Rhythms of Jazz, this year’s celebration will present images and stories of jazz and will highlight three jazz artists – Lionel Hampton, Randy Weston, and John Levy – who helped shape America’s original art form over several decades. Lionel Hampton is featured on the 2013 JAM poster, derived from artwork by Frederick J. Brown. The original painting is on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
On April 30, the Smithsonian and UNESCO’s International Jazz Day will focus on the influence of jazz worldwide. In this year’s host city of Instanbul, Turkey, the event will raise awareness of jazz’s virtues as an educational tool; as a vehicle for peace, unity, and dialogue; and as a platform for enhanced cooperation between peoples. Click here to learn about local broadcasts and live performances from Hawaii to New Hampshire on April 30.