Jazz at Lincoln Center brings the swing to afterschool

Lessons premiered this summer are now available year-round through Mizzen by Mott

A smiling woman stands in front of a piano, where a man is seated.
Accompanied by Willerm Delisfort on piano, Goussy Célestin breaks down blues lyrics in a lesson shared through Mizzen by Mott during the Summer Lawn Series. Photo courtesy of Jazz at Lincoln Center

It began with a warm trumpet blast, gusty as a summer breeze, steadied by a snappy drumbeat. Dancing in the Jazz Age kicked off the Mizzen by Mott Summer Lawn Series on July 11. Through this three-part Mizzen Live event, afterschool professionals, library and museum staff, and family members enjoyed performances by jazz greats, learned dance steps and discovered new curricula available through Mizzen by Mott.

The curricula, created for Mizzen by Jazz at Lincoln Center and Foundations, Inc. through a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, melds music, language arts and literacy, science and math.

It includes lessons like “The Blues 1: Lyrics,” an arts and literacy activity that introduces young people to the lyrical structure of blues songs and engages them in writing lyrics based on their own experiences. Jazz at Lincoln Center Teaching Artists Willerm Delisfort and Goussy Célestin, whose lessons appear in Mizzen, introduced blues music structures and sensibilities during the summer series.

“The blues is a way to express yourself, but it’s also way to also build community and connect to others who’ve had similar feelings,” Célestin said.

“Now more than ever, having access to learning experiences like these can make a dramatic difference for young people. Out-of-school-time settings are ideal spaces for cultivating creative partnerships that empower young people by supporting their social and emotional development and academic enrichment,” said Mott Program Officer Angelina Garner.

In case you missed the series, you’ll find all three performances on Mizzen’s website.

A lively graphic of music instruments in front of a skyline reads "Mizzen Lawn Party Series."

Before incorporating learning modules into Mizzen, content creators Seton Hawkins, who directs public programs and education resources for Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Jenn Conner, who directs the center for afterschool and expanded learning for Foundations, Inc., tested the curricula extensively with educators, young people and afterschool programs.

Mark Rapp and Eboni Ramm with ColaJazz Foundation facilitated the pilot programs in South Carolina. Rapp, who is the founder and CEO of ColaJazz, said doing so was “life changing, not only for us as teachers and educators and as an organization, but especially for the kids and the teachers. We have stories for days about how these lessons effected real change.”

“The curricula was so accessible, it gave me a deeper insight into jazz as well,” said Ramm, a vocalist who conducts jazz poetry workshops in schools. “I would recommend it for students in the classroom and for parents at home.”

Sam Trevathan, education director of Kids’ Orchestra, helped test lessons in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“I had been looking for a couple of years for a starting point for incorporating jazz into our program in Louisiana,” Trevathan said. “As an administrator jumping in, I started looking at how easy is this going to be for our teachers who maybe don’t have a jazz background. Accessibility is the first thing that really hit me. This content is accessible for anyone.”

And, he added, “Kids had a blast!”

Children in afterschool programs who helped try out the early lessons agreed. Of the 407 students who took part in pilots, 87% expressed interest in learning more jazz.

One Boys & Girls Clubs participant said, “The music makes you feel good. The dances are kind of hard, but you can still get them. Jazz is a good thing for you to do when you don’t feel good.”

Another said, “What I like about jazz is you can express emotions without words.”

A third student added, “Jazz is relaxing. It’s something you can listen to when you’re stressed. The lessons were fun. I really enjoyed it.”

The full curriculum is now available in the Mizzen by Mott app, which you can download from your favorite app store or at www.mizzen.org.

“The Mizzen team is honored to offer such high-quality, engaging learning content from one of our nation’s most prestigious arts organizations,” said Mizzen CEO Carlos Santini.