Jazz St. Louis's new initiative, Jazz Academy, is a jazz education and training program for middle school students in the Normandy, Riverview Gardens, and East St. Louis school districts. The program aims to eradicate the issue of shrinking music programs and benefit the feeder system that moves students from middle school to high school band programs. Programs like the Jazz Academy are increasingly important as school districts cut funding for arts courses as non-essential subjects.
This summer, Jazz St. Louis piloted a two-week Jazz Academy with 30 students from the Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts. From 9am to 3pm each day, students were bused to the new Centene Jazz Education Center at The Harold & Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz and participated in master classes, rehearsals, and workshops using jazz as a tool for improving basic music and instrument skills. They practiced and learned from Jazz St. Louis educators, band directors from the involved schools, and alumni from our acclaimed JazzU program. On the final day, they performed for family and friends on the stage in the Ferring Jazz Bistro. As with all Jazz St. Louis education programs, there was no fee to participate in the summer Jazz Academy.
Jazz St. Louis is excited to launch the Jazz Academy as a year-round after-school program that provides instruments, private lessons, master classes, workshops, and ensemble opportunities for selected students from these same school districts. Transportation to and from the Center will be provided for all students. We are also working with school social workers to offer general studies tutoring and other services these students might need. As with the summer Jazz Academy, the expansion of this program will remain free of cost to all participating students.
Studies continue to show that the integration of music in the classroom is a key tool to success for young people—improving math abilities, enhancing motor skills, and fostering creativity and confidence. Yet schools all over St. Louis cut arts programs as non-essential subjects. Specifically, middle school music programs are being diminished, or sometimes even removed from school curriculum, in under-served districts. As this happens, students fall behind their peers at more advantaged schools. Their lack of basic music knowledge and skills keep them from being able to perform well in high school bands and other local music programs. Students from Normandy, Riverview Gardens, and East St. Louis do not typically have resources to take private lessons or participate in other after-school music programs. Through the Jazz Academy, we are committed to working with these school districts to provide opportunities for skills enhancement, which will put students on a path to success for when they reach the high school level.
Through private lessons, master classes, and ensemble opportunities, students will learn the fundamental skills that are essential to participating in high school bands. These include proper technique and the basics of harmony and music theory. Additionally, one-on-one instruction will help students develop a unique sound and bring creativity to their playing. As well, all participating students will be given a quality instrument to use in lessons and master classes, and to use to practice with at home. This is a key element to the program as most students in under-served school districts do not have access to reliable instruments. Another important component of the Jazz Academy includes taking students out of their current environments and bringing them to The Harold & Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz. By doing so, we hope to eliminate barriers that prohibit their growth as musicians, as well as connect them to their peers in other school districts and give them access to national musicians who play on the Ferring Jazz Bistro stage.
With your support, middle school musicians from Normandy, Riverview Gardens, and East St. Louis will gain the skills they need to audition for high school bands and music programs throughout the St. Louis area. Jazz Academy students will increase their musical knowledge, enhance their skills, and boost their self-confidence—preparing them for their new venture into competitive high school bands and the music world at large.
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