Jazz Appreciation Month Lesson Plan

Teacher Resources include multi-media for classroom use and a discussion guide with learning outcomes.

Jazz Appreciation Month was established to encourage musicians, schools, colleges, libraries, concert halls, museums, radio and television stations, and other organizations to develop programs to explore, perpetuate, and honor jazz as a national and world treasure.

Credit: William P. Gottlieb [Public Domain]

2019 Featured Jazz Musician: Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole: An Unlikely Hero

By: Ethan Ton
Nat King Cole was a beloved American musician who was also the first African American to host his own television show.

Audio | Listen to selected Jazz compositions

Billie's Bounce (Charlie Parker)

By: Charlie Parker (1945 Atlantic Music Corp)
This is a rendition of Charlie Parker's acclaimed jazz tune 'Billie's Bounce'. As a musician, I highly look up to Charlie Parker. Nicknamed 'Bird', he revolutionized the music industry and helped make the genres of jazz and bebop more accessible to the pu

Wild Flower (Wayne Shorter)

By: Wayne Shorter (Blue Note 1965)
Wayne Shorter's 'Wild Flower' is rather unique in the sense that it is one of the few jazz waltzes. In 3/4 time, Wayne's harmonic sensibilities really flourish throughout the chordal changes of the tune. Its original album 'Speak No Evil' was a monumental

Satin Doll

Oscar Peterson performing in Montreal in 2004. One of his last performances.This performance was after his stroke and he's still rocking with only his right hand fully functional. Wow. this would be a great sound for someone with (2) functional hands!

Daahoud (Clifford Brown)

By: Mainstream Records (1973)
We wanted to memorialize this wonderful composition by Clifford Brown as originally recorded by the Clifford Brown and Max Roach Quintet. We reworked it as a slightly more modern piece and extended the improvisations.

Films | Watch short videos featuring the power of jazz music

Herb Alpert Medley

Produced by:Wendy Milette
Herb Alpert performs at the Ann and Jerry Moss Theater at the opening of the Herb Alpert Educational Village in Santa Monica.

Black/White & All That Jazz

Producer: Betty Bailey and Carol Lynde
Herb Jeffries's life is musical, colorful, and fascinating.

Reunited: A Short Film about Music and the Human Spirit

Max Thurlow, Nick Trumble
In this uplifting short film, directed by Max Thurlow and Nick Trumble, Noisey meets 93 year old jazz pianist Edward Hardy.

Playing For Change: Peace Through Music

Producer: Mark Johnson & Jonathan Walls
Playing for Change | Peace through Music

Discussion Questions

How is Jazz different from traditional music? How do jazz musicians create the unique collaborations that become their compositions?

What is it about the improvisational nature of jazz composition that allows the listener to have a truly individual experience? 

Why do you think jazz has endured for nearly a century? What is its power...and its beauty?

Do you compose music? Do you make art? Have you ever choreographed a dance?   Can you relate to the different jazz musicians and their individual creativity and the mastery of their chosen instruments?


Students can listen to the unique nature of jazz music in order to understand the role improvisation and creativity plays in composing a piece of jazz music.

Watching jazz performances in short films allows the viewer to see the unparalleled mastery of their art form that a musician has to have in order to undertake a jazz composition

Reading stories about the lives of these talented unique musicians reveals  the personalities behind this significant category of modern music. In addition, the stories reveal the power of music and the heroic qualities necessary to compose these unique compositions

Looking at visual artists' interpretations of jazz music and the performers gives us an additional window into the soul of jazz.


Stories | Discover the personalities behind the music that has shaped our times

Duke Ellington

By: Wynton Marsalis

From My Hero: Extraordinary People on the Heroes Who Inspire Them: Pulitzer Prize-winning musician Wynton Marsalis writes about his hero, Duke Ellington

Wynton Marsalis

By: The My Hero Project
Wynton Marsalis is dedicated to passing on the benefits of music education to young people.

Bessie Smith

By: Student from Virginia
Bessie Smith 'Empress of the Blues,' left a rich legacy in jazz, blues and rock and roll with her unexcelled artistry and emotion.

Scott Joplin

By: Adam from Center Valley
Scott Joplin composed operatic and ragtime music and influenced early jazz.

Ella Fitzgerald

By: Julie from Selden
Ella Fitzgerald was a beloved songstress who used her success to help people of all races, cultures and beliefs.

Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong

By: Yusuke from San Diego

Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong was one of the most successful and influential jazz musicians in history. According to Wynton Marsalis, "You can't play a note on the horn that Louis hasn't already played…" 

Benjamin (Benny) David Goodman

By: Lori from Warsaw, Ohio

Benjamin (Benny) David Goodman, the King of Swing, played the clarinet and  helped launch the careers of many major names in jazz while breaking racial barriers.

Jakarta's International Javajazz Festival

By: Cheryl from Jakarta

Javajazz Festival was born from a dream. A dream to bring jazz musicians from all around the world into one single spot - the Jakarta Convention Center

John Ferguson spreads goodwill for America through the power of music

By: Tibor Krausz <br> Contributor of The Christian Science Monitor<br> <h5>Permi...
Pianist John Ferguson founded American Voices, a nonprofit whose mission is to help aspiring young artists around the world pursue their interest in American jazz, Broadway, break dancing, and classical music.

Musicians and The Civil Rights Movement

By: Stuart Pearlman

Learn more about musicians and the Civil Rights Movement in this report by an intern from Chapman University, Justin Bender

Art | Jazz as Expressed by Visual Artists

Jazz Appreciation Month

By: eric dean

King of jazz

By: Mititelu Maxim

An homage to Louis Armstrong

Ella Fitzgerald

By: Carl Van Vechten

Aka First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, and Lady Ella

Langston Hughes

By: Carl Van Vechten

The poet Langston Hughes listened to  jazz at nightclubs, collaborated with musicians, and even wrote a children’s book called The First Book of Jazz

Dave Brubeck, photo by Carl Van Vechten

By: Carl Van Vechten
Pianist Dave Brubeck is most known for his jazz composition, "Take Five"

Nat King Cole Portrait by St George

By: Saint George
Nat King Cole was a crooner in the best sense of the word. Because of his popularity, he had the first African-American hosted TV show


This lesson plan was curated by MY HERO Arts Education and Gallery director Victoria Murphy. Choose multi-media from this lesson plan to use in your classroom. Students will have a deeper appreciation of jazz's cultural importance after viewing the media and considering the questions in the discussion guide.


Related Links

Smithsonian Jazz
Credit: Smithsonian
A Passion For Jazz: History of Jazz
Credit: A Passion for Jazz
Jazz - Film by Ken Bruns
Credit: PBS

History of Jazz: Scholastic
Credit: Scholastic
Jazz Foundation of America
Credit: Jazz Foundation
National Endowment for the Humanities Lesson Plan: Jazz and World War II
Credit: NEH

Organizer created on 3/21/2019 2:16:15 PM by MY HERO Staff

Last edited 3/23/2020 12:43:08 PM by Xenia Shin