Da Vinci – Jazz in the Schools by volunteer Kim Harrison

Walking into da Vinci Arts Middle School for my first morning of volunteering for Jazz in the Schools, was very intimidating. I was excited to be involved in such an important and influential program and I am a teacher so why was I so nervous? I suppose it was because I am just learning about jazz myself. I am a music lover and have had the privilege to experience many live jazz performances but I don’t have a working knowledge of all of the historically significant artists and events that helped shape our culture. How could I teach these students about this important topic?

That’s where Joe stepped in. Joe Maita, PDX Jazz Board President and Jazz Educator Extraordinaire, led the hour long program. His multi-media presentation had the students tapping along to music and live recordings, answering questions about the Twentieth Century and more importantly, asking questions about Jazz and its influence. I had the fun task of handing out gift bags from our sponsor, US Bank, filled with art supplies and an informational activity book to assist the students to create their own art inspired by jazz music. The hour flew by. We were off to another classroom and once again, engaged students listened, discussed and asked great questions. By the end of our days at da Vinci, I was absolutely inspired and I had learned so much about the influence of Jazz on my everyday life. I found myself researching questions that the students had raised and emailing answers to the classes. I dropped by the ceramics class to see works in progress and left instruments and sheet music for the students to see for inspiration in their visual arts projects.

Fast forward a few weeks to the gallery opening to display the works of art the students created that were inspired by Jazz in the Schools presentation and I was practically running to da Vinci. I could hardly wait to see their finished projects and hear about their process. The reception was wonderful with students discussing their works with the parents, teachers and guests. I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the work and how much the impact of jazz was reflected in each piece. It seemed the entire school was influenced by our Jazz in the School visits. During the reception, the dance students performed an improvisational jazz dance.

I am grateful to the teachers and students at da Vinci for their hard work and enthusiasm. I am also grateful to Joe and PDX JAZZ for the privilege of volunteering for this amazing educational outreach program. It was so rewarding to build this connection to my neighborhood school and to see the outcomes of our visit. I cannot wait to see all the winning art displayed during the Jazz Fest in February and I am excited to invite all of the participating students and their families to live jazz shows during the festival.

If you’re thinking about volunteering, please reach out to the PDX Jazz staff. You don’t have to be a a Jazz expert to make an impact. I guarantee you will learn a lot and have fun too!

Click on the piece of art below to be redirected to the Da Vinci flickr album where you can see much of the art that was created by Da Vinci students.

Da Vinci - Jazz in the Schools 2016