Where the Jazz Begins

The Jazz Storytelling Band has led the program for over 15 years, drawing crowds of young children and their families to the museum for fun and music every first Friday.

Note the Next Generation of Jazz at 18th and Vine

Visit the American Jazz Museum on the first Friday of the month and you’re likely to walk into a crowd of young kids and their caregivers singing “Jazz Milk and Cookies,” sharpening their scat skills, or learning the fundamentals of music from our Jazz Storytelling band in the museum atrium. Come in on a Saturday afternoon when the Kansas City Jazz Academy is in session, and you’ll find a dedicated faculty of esteemed musician educators sharing their expertise with the next generation of great musicians.

The American Jazz Museum’s two signature youth programs – Jazz Storytelling and the Kansas City Jazz Academy – strive to foster cultural equity, awareness, and a love of jazz in younger generations. Between the two programs, jazz education is available to a spectrum of ages, from infant to high school. Jazz Storytelling, designed to teach the foundations of music to children from birth to early elementary school, is led by vocalist Lisa Henry, storyteller Brother John Anderson, bassist Tyrone Clark, and drummer Mike Warren. The Kansas City Jazz Academy provides jazz instruction for middle and high school students interested in improving their skills beyond what they receive in a typical school setting. Led by a faculty of esteemed artists and educators like Clarence Smith, Stan Kessler, and Charles Williams, curriculum focuses on style, history, theory, ear training, song forms, repertoire, and musicianship. Additional clinics and masterclasses are presented by national and international jazz musicians and educators.

Music education is one of the most beneficial ways to enhance a young child’s learning and brain development. A 2019 study from the University of British Columbia concluded that high school students who learned to play a musical instrument in elementary school not only score significantly higher, but were about one academic year ahead of their non-music peers in English, math, and science, regardless of their socioeconomic background, ethnicity, or gender.

These days, almost anyone can master a new skill from a YouTube video, learning app, or quick internet search. This holds especially true for younger generations, who are introduced to learning through screens at an earlier age than ever before. Morgan Faw, a former KCJA student and soon-to-be graduate of the Berklee School of Music’s Saxophone Performance Program said the Jazz Academy was “where it all started” for him, and that he hopes technology doesn’t create a barrier to the kind of learning he received from the program.

“So many of us have been brought up with technology and cell phones, and it feels like there is a detachment from art at times. Art is the healthiest form of expression, and my instructors in the Jazz Academy were always striving for us to find something deeper in ourselves and learn how to be expressive.”
He said that he learned it’s not about the notes, it’s how you play them.

“This music is sacred. The only way it gets passed down is through musicians. You can learn about Thelonius Monk or Charlie Parker or Robert Glasper, or watch videos of them online. But the importance of working with other musicians is to share – give and take from one another so we can help each other’s music expand.”

He also noted the importance of the program residing at 18th and Vine. “This is a people’s music, and Jazz Academy students are learning how to expand their music alongside the people who helped create the culture. It’s teaching them true originality and expression.”

Faw graduates in May and is currently writing his first record with his band The Flame. He plans to reside in New York after graduation and hopefully go on tour soon. He also hopes to become a music educator someday to pass on what he’s learned to the next generation.

Jazz Storytelling happens at 10am every first Friday in the museum atrium, and the Kansas City Jazz Academy hosts three cohorts per year for beginner to advanced learners. Visit www.americanjazzmuseum.org to learn more, or contact Lisa Alpert at lalpert@kcjazz.org if you are interested in supporting these programs.

–Lisa Alpert

CategoriesArts Consortium

Leave a Reply