Timeless Jazz for Young Cats
"We believe in the power of jazz," says banjo player Justin Poindexter, who is part of the Jazz for Young People education program at Jazz at Lincoln Center, which is designed to introduce music lovers of all ages to America's most joyous original art form. "It's for people who maybe have never heard jazz," says Poindexter.
For more than 20 years, the members of Jazz for Young People have worked with local musicians to present its message all over the world, from Puerto Rico and Vietnam to Harlem. This year, the group will perform more than 500 concerts for schoolchildren. There will also be performances at Rose Hall dedicated to piano player and bandleader Count Basie (November 4) and Louis Armstrong, a talented youngster from New Orleans who changed the meaning of jazz (February 3, 2017).
"We make ties to American history and democracy — that's the basis for the whole program," says Todd Stoll, vice president of education for Jazz at Lincoln Center. In between songs "we talk a little about the origins of New Orleans jazz, the roles the different instruments play, some of the music's major figures — and why it all matters."
In addition to Jazz for Young People, Jazz at Lincoln Center also runs WeBop, an early-childhood jazz education program for children eight months to five years. Families are invited to stomp and sing, clap and dance as they learn about concepts, instruments, and the jazz greats. There are single sessions, family jazz parties, and even an eight-week series of classes aimed at various age levels, from hipsters (8-16 months old) to syncopators (4-5 years old).
"We think that kids need to know about this," says Stoll. "We have fun and learn."