WeBop at Jazz St. Louis invites children ages 3-5 to discover six styles of jazz this fall

WeBop students during story time

Music programs for children exist throughout St. Louis, but none offer quite the experience as WeBop, offered exclusively by Jazz St. Louis at the Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz. This is the 4th year that Jazz St. Louis will present the award-winning early-childhood jazz education program designed by Jazz At Lincoln Center and Dr. Lori Custodero of Columbia University. Beginning on September 28th, children aged 3-5, along with their adult(s), will learn about six different styles of jazz: New Orleans Jazz, Kansas City Jazz, Bebop Jazz, Latin Jazz, Cool Jazz, and Free Jazz. 

WeBop, which features four different curricula, introduces children as young as 8 months old to the culture, history, and musical style of jazz through exploration and storytelling. Setting the program apart from a typical childhood music program, however, is the exposure to the music through and with live musicians. Each 8-week program is led by an instructor accompanied by a musician or ensemble, depending on what the lesson calls for. Moreover, children have an opportunity to explore and “create” music alongside the musicians as they’re being taught, making the classes engaging in a unique way.

Presently, Jazz St. Louis is authorized to teach three of the four programs: Jazz Family, The ABCs of Jazz, and Exploring Jazz Styles. This fall marks the first time Jazz St. Louis has ever presented the Exploring Jazz Styles curriculum. “Kids are most like jazz, with their fluid ability to change and adapt. This program will provide an opportunity to see how jazz is similar to them, and how they can use jazz to express their many different moods,” offers Regan Tadrus, a jr. kindergarten teacher at Forsyth School. Ms. Tadrus is one of the three volunteer instructors currently trained and authorized to teach WeBop in St. Louis. “In past years, we’ve been teaching students about the Jazz Family, and The ABCs of Jazz, but this fall will offer something new for everyone, including our returning families. It will be a lot of fun to explore the styles of jazz with young children,” she continues.

Accompanying Ms. Tadrus most (if not all) weeks is Mr. Adaron “Pops” Jackson, WeBop’s resident jazz pianist who regularly performs with Good 4 The Soul and other musical projects around St. Louis, including here at the Ferring Bistro.

The new curriculum will introduce recordings and compositions from jazz legends such as Miles Davis (representing Cool Jazz), Ornette Coleman (representing Free Jazz), and Chano Pazo (representing Latin Jazz). Past artists who will continue to be part of the fall classes include familiar names like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.

In addition to learning about the styles of jazz, students will learn about something that is much a part of their cultural heritage. “We have such a rich history of jazz here in St. Louis, so this is offering them a way to connect with their city and its past roots,” Ms. Tadrus says. She emphasizes that grown-up participation is a significant component of WeBop, and that parents should be prepared to engage and interact. “It’s not a drop-off program. We want the grown-ups to be involved. They’ll gain just as much from the class as the kids.”

While WeBop is designed for children 8-months to 5 years, it is currently only available to children aged 3-5 in St. Louis. Ms. Tadrus hopes to expand this offering to younger students in the future, but of course, like most new programming, that depends on funding, level of interest, and staff availability. Families with children 3-5 years of age interested in signing up for the fall WeBop Exploring Jazz Styles may do so at the Jazz St. Louis website. Classes run each Saturday beginning September 28th-November 16th from 10:00-10:45 AM. A free trial will be held this Saturday, September 14th at 10:00 AM. Stay tuned for information on the spring 2020 classes as well!

To register for the FREE trial or for the fall sessions visit https://jazzstl.org/education/webop/.