Developed by Jazz at Lincoln Center, WeBop is a jazz education program designed for children three to five years old. These 45-minute classes are structured to engage both the child and caregiver, with participation required from both. Families are invited to stomp, strut, and swing to the joyous rhythms of jazz while learning about its core concepts, instruments, and great performers.

The heart of jazz music is innovation and improvisation. What better musical genre could there be that would encourage children to explore their creativity and embrace their individuality than jazz? Thanks to the innovators at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the WeBop early-childhood jazz education program does just that.

What Is WeBop?

Now in our 6th year, Jazz St. Louis enjoys the distinction of being just one of three institutions in the country that is accredited to teach the award-winning WeBop program. Designed for children 3 to 5 years-old, WeBop is an 8-week program that engages kids and their caregivers with fun, interactive sessions of 45 minutes each. WeBop gets children (and their caregivers!) moving and grooving to live and recorded jazz music, playing instruments, and learning about the history, styles, and amazing performers of jazz.

What Makes WeBop Unique?

Regan Tadrus, one of the original WeBop teachers at Jazz St. Louis, says “WeBob is different than a typical kids music class. Children connect through feeling and this particular music genre does that by its very nature. Kids get to hear the music, see it being performed, and actually play instruments together with other kids and their family members.” “The WeBop program is about authenticity,” Regan continues. “We talk about how jazz was part of the culture of the civil rights, and how it helps bring communities together. The adults in our classes learn things they never knew and develop a deeper appreciation for jazz and the struggles of the musicians who played it.”

The WeBop program also helps get jazz into the homes of the community at an early age and helps bring communities together. WeBop also helps people connect with jazz right here in our own city. In fact, St. Louis is home to many of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, including Miles Davis, Clark Terry, and Frank Trumbauer.

What Happens in a WeBop Session?

WeBop at Jazz St. Louis has three different, 8-week sessions – The Jazz Family, The ABC’s of Jazz, and Exploring Jazz Styles.  The Jazz Family (which will be the next session starting April 6th) focuses on important jazz musicians, their lives, their influence, and the music they played. Children and their caregivers move, sing, connect, while they learn about each musician and listen to their music. Each has everyone playing instruments, and each class ends with a story. All WeBop sessions involve full jazz combos that perform for the kids and their families. The ABC’s of Jazz is more about form of jazz, with each weekly class exploring a different form.  The classes progress through swing, blues, improvisation, big band, scat, call & response, and more. The hands-on aspect of WeBop really comes alive with a wide variety of instruments that children can play. Again, the live performance of a professional jazz band helps the kids feel like their part of the community. They get to interact with the band, ask questions and see the instruments up close. The third WeBop session is Exploring Jazz Styles, as the class “travels” from New Orleans to Kansas City to New York and many points in between. The kids are exposed to swing, bepop, Latin jazz, cool jazz and free jazz (yes, there’s a difference!). Learning about and hearing how the various styles express emotion from sadness and despair to joy and love. While all three sessions are different, each one is a stand-alone experience and perfect for introducing children to music, instruments, creativity, and self-expression. Jazz St. Louis’ very own Adaron “Pops” Jackson accompanies each class with his brilliant piano playing which provides a jazzy soundtrack for the teachers, kids, and caregivers to enjoy. And all sessions end with a performance from a professional jazz combo.