Jazz in the Schools

Since September, we have been privileged to present our Jazz in the Schools program to several Portland Public Schools, among them Da Vinci, Sellwood and Astor Middle Schools, and Rosa Parks Elementary. In December we will work with students at Beaumont Middle School, and in January the Lincoln photography students will take part.

During our presentation, the students learn about artists like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, they listen to music, and watch a video or two. In the process, they learn how jazz as a popular music impacted American civilization at the height of the 20th century while discovering its connection to art and culture, culminating in inspiration for creating their own original art while listening to the music.

To help them get started, we shared with them several examples of art created for jazz record album covers — everything from photography to fine art to graphic design. They saw that music could be artistically interpreted in anything — colors, shapes, designs, or language.

We then asked the students to listen to the music in their classroom over a period of time, and to then create what the music looks like to them, with the artistic canvas being a 12” x 12” square, which is the identical size of a record album.

Within our organizational mission is the desire to grow a new audience for jazz. I believe our Jazz in the Schools program is a positive experience for the hundreds of students who have so far taken part in it, and it is certainly our hope at PDX Jazz that they will possess an appreciation for the music and culture of jazz that will endure as they grow older.

A special thanks to US Bank for sponsoring this program, to our staff for the efforts they have put toward making this program a success, to volunteers Kim Harrison, David Lifton, Kimmie Fadem, and to board members Marcia Hocker and Deborah Smith for all their help in assisting me on this program.

Here are some pictures from the presentation at Sellwood. Expect more to come soon from the other schools.

sellwood4a   sellwood1a

Joe Maita
Joe Maita

Joe’s passion for jazz music started as a teenager when first exposed to Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” in a Berkeley record store, ultimately leading to the discovery of Bird, Coltrane, Miles, Monk, Duke, Dizzy and far beyond. This interest in music led to a career in the entertainment software distribution business, where he has been an executive since moving to Portland in 1978. In the ensuing years, Maita Marketing Group has been an important link for creators and distributors of independent music and film to the country’s leading retailers. As publisher of the award-winning website Jerry Jazz Musician, Joe has been a longtime advocate for jazz education on a national level. As PDX Jazz Board President, he has worked to expand the educational initiatives the organization presents, creating the “Jazz in the Schools” program whose goal is to educate Portland-area students about jazz history and the art jazz music influenced, and to ultimately provide them with artistic inspiration.

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