Jazz for Children
The rich history and distinctive sound of jazz make it a fascinating topic of study for children and an ideal starting point for teaching them about other forms of music. Originating from the United States in the early 20th century, arguably the most distinctive aspect of jazz is the improvisation during live performances. Some of the most famous jazz performers of all time include Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis.
In this blog we’re firstly going to take a look at some ways in which your children can learn about jazz music before highlighting some fun facts and further reading for your kids.
How can children connect with jazz?
Whilst jazz is a centuries-old genre of music, it’s clear that children continue to relate to it today. An example of this comes from the recent children’s film Soul, which tells the story of a black music teacher whose dream is to become a professional jazz musician. Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which your kids might be able to connect with jazz.
Although jazz music is highly complex, the vocal practice of ‘scatting‘ is almost childlike in its simplicity. Scatting, or ‘scat singing’, is defined by Wikipedia as ‘vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, nonsense syllables or without words at all.’ It’s a form of singing that is easy for your child to imitate and a great way to get them interested in the wonderful world of jazz.
Although jazz gained global popularity in the 1920s, its history stretches as far back as the late 19th century in America. It has an even longer history than other contemporary forms of music, making it a goldmine of interesting facts. Jazz for children is not only learning about a form of music, but about human history itself.
Having emerged as an expression of joy and individuality from within African-American slave communities, jazz also teaches us important lessons about the human spirit. Indeed, International Jazz Day is noted by UNESCO as a day that ‘promotes human rights and fundamental freedoms’ and ‘protects and promote the diversity of cultural expressions.’
As we touched upon, a distinctive feature of jazz is improvisation. It amounts to instrumentalists and/or vocalists soloing over the top of an established beat or melody. So what relevance does that have to children? Well, introducing your kids to the idea of improvisation can firstly help to improve their musical creativity – should they take up an instrument in the future.
Yet creativity is more than that. Being able to improvise and deal with life’s challenges is also an invaluable life skill. Instilling the idea of creativity and improvisation into your child from an early age can make them come alive to the possibilities of creative thinking. This, in turn, could make them more open to finding creative solution to problems.
5 Fun Facts About Jazz
1 Jazz music was so popular in the 1920s and 1930s that the period is sometimes referred to as ‘The Jazz Age’
2 Popular instruments used to play jazz include the trombone, trumpet, saxophone, piano, drums and double bass.
3 There are many different types of jazz including swing jazz, bebop, hard bop and jazz fusion.
4 Some of the most famous jazz performers of all time include Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis.
5 Jazz has sprouted dance styles such as the Charleston, black bottom and trot.
Free Printable PDF
You can also download these facts as a PDF by clicking the image below!
Jazz for Children – Further Reading
If you’re interested in learning about jazz with your children, then why not start with two of the biggest jazz legends of all time? This children’s book about Louis Armstrong tracks the life and times of one of the greatest jazz musicians ever. It even comes with a special audio CD that interweaves his story with 14 of his most famous recordings. Audiobooks such as these are a great way of helping children to read.
Alternatively, you might want to learn about the so-called ‘Queen of Jazz’ – Ella Fitzgerald. Famous for popularising the scat style of singing that we touched upon previously, Fitzgerald is arguably the most famous female jazz performer and often performed live with Louis Armstrong. This children’s book about Ella Fitzgerald combines beautiful illustrations with audio recordings of her music.
Whether you want to start introducing your kids to music or encourage them to learn history, jazz acts as a great starting point for both areas of study. We hope you’ve found this blog useful, and happy scatting!