Why Jazz and Blues should be taught in the Music Classroom

Since we’ve been making music teaching resources, we’ve found out through our surveys that topics like Jazz and Blues hardly ever get covered in the junior high school or middle school. Even looking back on my own personal teaching experience, I have to now ashamedly confess, it was a topic I never taught much either.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to…believe me I wanted more materials, but the issue was Time!
I was always too busy getting all the admin done, getting the practical assignments ready and too busy teaching…tell me what busy teacher ever has time to prepare for literally hundreds of hours outside of lessons, so this topic was always shelved.

I guess another reason why was that I never really put a priority on teaching about jazz and blues was because I naively felt that it never really stacked up as being one of the most important topics to cover.

It really was a matter of pleasure versus pain!

Quite simply, The hours and hours of preparation required to teach a topic that I really didn’t know much about was too painful for me to do.

So I started to think who else feels like this. And sure enough, when we asked around via a survey, we found that Jazz and Blues was one of the top topic’s that music teachers wanted to cover, but literally couldn’t!

It wasn’t until we started to get into the job of writing, compiling and constructing this topic that we realized what we had learned from it and how important it actually was to the general music curriculum . Here’s what I found out:

Learning about Jazz and Blues Helps our students expand their General Knowledge

Jazz and Blues is certainly one of those topics which would be classed as an “exposure “ unit. It’s one of those subjects that you could spend years on in depth and at university level there are courses of this nature to cater for that specialist need, but my personal belief is that music lessons at the general classroom level for middle school students or junior high school students are for exposure. Just think, how can kids possibly decide what they want to play and what they like themselves – if they’ve never heard or known about it before?

If every student that is taught about Jazz and Blues learns just one new thing or gets one new idea, then in my opinion, it’s time well spent. If there’s just one piece of information they could use to help with conversation around a dinner table when they’re older or use to help them win a quiz night one day, then it’s worthwhile to teach. My bet is that when we cover units of work such as Jazz and Blues in a fun way, most students learn far more – it’s knowledge that will expand their horizons and will be with them for life!

Jazz is not just for “jazz heads”

Years ago, I naively thought that you had to really know your stuff and be a professional in each area of music to teach it well.

Wow! Was I wrong or what!

I hope everyone agrees with me here. But as music teachers, there’s no way we can all possibly be professionals in every genre of music. Sure I know there are so many talented teachers out there, but we don’t have to be able to play and demonstrate all the songs ourselves. Luckily these days we’ve got a host of tools to use here on the Internet that are better than us all doing it ourselves anyway. And this means that there is now no excuses for schools to solely have a rock, jazz or a classical program but that our kids should have a range of general information at their disposal before they choose to specialize.

Did you know that the expression “cool “came from jazz roots?

Sounds so obvious to hear it doesn’t it ? But the fact is that this is interesting to our students and really gets them involved because they don’t often associate terms and words that they might use regularly themselves with way back then in the jazz era. The other claim to fame of this era was that jazz musicians first invented and used the drum kit, a very important part in the evolution of modern music wouldn’t you agree?

Flexible and Easy resources have not yet existed on the internet – until now!

As soon as we found out that Jazz and Blues was a topic that teachers would like to teach but don’t, the first thing we did was to have a look on the Internet. We were stunned when we literally couldn’t find anything to fill this need and needless to say that’s why we made this set of Jazz and Blues Lesson Plans.

If you’d like to have a look at the lessons and sheets in more detail, feel free to have a browse through our available Jazz and Blues Lesson Plans
In this module there are enough fact sheets, fun worksheets and lesson ideas to last for a whole term or even more. The lesson ideas are not rigid, they are flexible because we know that every class is different and sometimes what works for one class won’t always work for another so you can chop and change and use the ideas for a variety of age groups. We’ve even made two styles of fact sheet – one you can generally read out loud in the classroom which are perfect to use for substitute teachers or a special fill in the gap one which you can use alongside the carefully prepared whiteboard presentations to help promote a more active style of learning.

The Jazz and Blues Resources are constantly evolving!

I always get most excited about this one. But the fact is for Jazz and Blues, it’s only the beginning! Even though the initial product was written, edited and compiled by a group of very skilled writers and teachers, it will always evolve as it gets used over and over again in schools. We often find that our best ideas come from people who are constantly using it, people just like you! So this means that if you have a brainwave one day as you’re teaching it, then all you need to do is let us know here at the Fun Music Company support center and we’ll put it in place so that it can be used by teachers across all schools.

But now it’s your turn. Do you teach about Jazz and Blues in your music curriculum? What have your experiences been with the topic? What do you think of these new resources – have you tried them yet? I’d love to hear your feedback.

2 Comments

  • By Richard Frank Reply

    Hi Janice —

    Very interesting read. I have to ask, where does reggae, Latins, Afro-Cuban, Funk, Fusion, Groove and Smooth Jazz fit in?

    Blues is totally cool, but I’m a professional musician and swing jazz is dying a slow death – people over 50. The other styles above are relevant and accessible and actually are what musicians play today (besides rock, hip hop and pop).

    Thoughts?

  • By binaural theta Reply

    You actually make it appear really easy along with your presentation however I in finding this topic to be really something which I feel I might by no means understand. It kind of feels too complex and extremely large for me. I’m having a look ahead on your next publish, I?ll try to get the hang of it!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

12 − 1 =