The performance time was up for the John Brown Quartet, but at the end of their original set, a Bennett teacher asked if the band had time to play just one more. Happy to oblige, the band played a final tune by the great Duke Ellington.
“Art is a safe and comforting space that is for everybody.”
– John Brown
Moncure teacher Josiah Ruhl said, “I could listen to this all day.” And by “this,” Mr. Ruhl meant the jazz tunes coming from an upright bass, electric guitar, drum set, and trombone that made up the four-piece band under the direction of Grammy-winning artist and composer, John Brown.
The schoolwide performance was just the beginning of this residency with Moncure’s fifth and seventh graders in April. Students asked tons of questions in the workshops that followed–questions that ranged from how long it took the musicians to learn their craft to how the musicians play with their eyes closed–and the discussions dug deep into music and culture.
The band explained the elements of jazz music, including improvisation, mutes, and scatting, and they shared some about the history of jazz and groundbreaking musicians like John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald.
Students shared their own favorite songs, and John and his bandmates helped the kids recognize the foundational jazz elements in each of them. Discussing their impressions of the songs, band members encouraged the group to think about what they listen for—instruments, rhythm, lyrics, the voice?
“It felt good to talk to musical professionals,” commented a student in the second workshop session. “I felt understood when I talked about songs I loved.”
Students expressed how they felt listening to songs they may not have heard before. When a heavy metal piece was played, one student volunteered that they thought “a criminal act” was happening in the song. After the giggles subsided, the trombone player reminded students that “whenever you’re talking about music, you’re also talking about culture” and to be respectful of everyone’s musical choices.
After the residency, a Moncure seventh-grade teacher reflected, “It was great exposure to Jazz music and professional musicians that most of the students will not have many chances to experience in their lives.”
A fifth-grader might have best summed up the experience: “I felt happy just because I have never really sat there and enjoyed jazz as much as I did … [it] makes me wanna listen to jazz even more.”
This impactful residency was powered by the Harrison Family Trust.
Arts for Resilient Kids programming is made possible by partnerships with Chatham County Schools, Chatham County, the North CarolinaArts Council, and many individual, foundation, business donors.