Jazz Residency Reviewed

Glen Stevens Elementary School Jazz Residency With Jazz Musician, Laurie Lang and Music Teacher, Regina Haugen, October 2 – 9, 2015

In the beginning of October, 500 kids felt the vibrations of the bass violin “up close and personal,” as each student had the “hands on” opportunity to play the magical Super Hooper, while he was visiting Stevens with Ms. Lang during this elementary jazz residency sponsored by the Greater Madison Jazz Consortium. They learned about how jazz swings, by moving and grooving their bodies. They sang the blues and wrote some blues to get out their sad feelings. They improvised notes and words, scatting over the rhythm changes song form. They learned about and learned to sing several jazz standard songs: C Jam Blues (Ellington), I Got Rhythm (Gershwin), My Favorite Things (Rodgers & Hammerstein, jazz version: Coltrane), Over the Rainbow (Arlen & Harburg). They experienced how the music swings in varying time signatures, 4/4, 3/4, and 5/4. The whole week ended in an all school concert where various grade levels performed by singing and playing string instruments and with a 5-piece professional jazz band; lead by Ms. Lang on bass, and including Jan Wheaton, vocals; Jon Vriesacker, violin; Jim Erickson, piano; Chris Sandoval, drums.

The music teacher, Ms. Haugen and jazz musician Ms. Lang began their planning in the spring before the previous school year ended. Ms. Lang visited the classroom to observe and interact with Ms. Haugen in her classroom environment. They created a plan for the beginning of the new school year, to kick off the year with lessons leading up to the jazz residency. Ms. Haugen incorporated jazz listening, learning jazz songs and jazz vocabulary into her normal lesson plans for September. Lang and Haugen tighten up the plans in early September to make the residency successful in reaching the children with more than just a one time exposure to jazz but to really experience it from several dimensions having language to embrace the improvisational concepts.

When Ms. Lang arrived for the week of jazz, the children were able participate with singing the blues and improvising scat singing with the jazz musicians. While all the children participated in “call and response” types of jazz improvisation as a group, several were able to voluntarily come to the front of the class and work freely with Diva Jan, Jazzy Jim and Ms. Laurie, demonstrating trading measures of improvisation both vocally and some even on the piano. There was lots of large motor moving to the music and stories about famous jazz musicians and jazz music. One brave 2nd grade student even volunteered to help read a picture book with many challenging jazzy words.

In the concert, the jazz quintet and whole school performed the jazz standards together, while the 2nd – 5th grade classes were each featured by coming to the front to perform from their song from the risers with Ms. Haugen conducting. Beginning 5th grade string musicians got to play their instruments on C –Jam blues and the jazz quintet demonstrated improvised solos on every tune. The whole event was fun, crazy, improvised and well planned to make a great jazz experience for everyone.