Jazz is a uniquely American music that is deeply rooted in the southern part of the United States, specifically, New Orleans. The unique blend of people and cultures (each bringing their own music and traditions) along with the social climate of the day made the advent of jazz possible there, as opposed to elsewhere in the world.

Spanish, French, Caribbean, freed slaves and Creole were among the different people that lived together in New Orleans. And although they didn’t always like each other, jazz music gave them a reason to come together. West African rhythms and dance, blues harmony and vocal inflections, call and response from the many local churches and traditional brass band instrumentation are just a few of the many components that went into making jazz. Buddy Bolden, one of the first great jazz musicians was known for his ability to take all of these influences and translate them into the language of music.

Other influential New Orleans jazz musicians include Jelly Roll Morton, Joe “King” Oliver and Louis Armstrong.


1. Students will recognize the birth of jazz in New Orleans.

2. Students will recognize and identify the social conditions and different cultures that made the development of jazz possible.

3. Students will compare different musical genres including opera, ragtime, blues, brass band, West African drumming and spirituals.

4. Students will use the definitions of rhythm, melody and harmony and their definitions to construct a musical “profile” of different musical genres.

5. Students will define and apply such terms as rhythm, port city, jazz, melody and harmony.


Rhythm: The organized motion of sounds and rest

Port City: A city located on a ocean or to another large body of water connected to an ocean

Melody: The part of a song that you sing

Harmony: The chords that support the written and improvised melodies


If you would like to do more activities with this lesson, here is one idea:
Based on the musical examples provided on they accompanying CD, find your own examples. Have the students divide into teams. Each team will be competing in a “quiz-bowl” where they have to identify different types of music based on the examples you play. You could also incorporate non-musical questions based on the reading, your lecture and the vocabulary words for the lesson.

Cross-Curricular Connections
Social Studies/Geography: Your students can further study the unique port city of New Orleans and all the cultures that came together there.

Online Connections
For ideas on enhancing this lesson with free online resources, check out these helpful links:

1. www.jalc.org/halloffame – interactive online profiles of famous jazz musicians
Students can research biographies, photos, music and more of many great jazz musicians. The relevant musicians to this lesson include Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Bix Beiderbecke, Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver.
This site also includes interactive quizzes at the beginning, intermediate and advanced levels as well as an interactive timeline.

2. www.jazzinamerica.org – online curriculum with lesson plans
Lesson 1 covers the beginnings of jazz
For the younger grades, be sure to check out
*Journeys into Jazz with Herbie Hancock*. This Flash based interactive story covers jazz from its creation through the early 1920s.

Show-Me Standards
Content/Knowledge: SS2, SS6, CA1, CA3, CA6, CA7, FA2, FA3, FA4, FA5
Process/Performance: 1.1, 1.2, 1.5, 1.9, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.7, 4.1, 4.4, 4.6

National Music ED Standards
Content Standard: 6, 7, 8, 9 of music.


Jazz St. Louis is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to lead our community in advancing the uniquely American art of jazz through live performance, education and community engagement.


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