Yesterday, on a beautiful spring Friday, the U.S. Department of Education hosted its sixth annual Jazz Informance (part performance, and part jazz lesson) in collaboration with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. It was, as always, an awe inspiring event, bringing joy, pride and unbridled hope for the future to the packed audience of area school students and educators.
It is rare to witness the product of learning played out so gloriously in real time with a proven jazz master teacher, but this was that rare event. A septet of students from DC’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Newark (NJ)'s Arts High School played flawlessly the compositions of Rollins, Monk, and Ellington alongside Grammy-winning, saxophonist/teacher Wayne Escoffery.
Dr. Dyas of the Institute creatively taught how jazz really works, and I had the honor of introducing this great event. I related what I had learned in my six transformative years of attending the Informances, seeing other forms of music through the values of jazz. I also discussed why Professor Gerald Earley of Washington University in St. Louis concluded that what people would remember about America 2000 years from now, will be the Constitution, baseball and jazz—all capture the spirit of America through freedom, equity, improvisation, communication, and teamwork. But it was the students who brought that spirit to life.