Jazz in Time

The History of a Great American Musical Movement


Age range: Good for 12 to 18 year olds

Estimated Time: Give yourself some time! This interactive takes about 30 minutes to read thoroughly and slightly longer to listen to the imbedded audio clips.

Key Technology: This interactive requires the Flash 8 player (or better.) If you do not see the text, you need to update your player. Speakers are needed for audio (headphones are recommended for use in group settings like libraries.) To download the Listening Guide, you need Adobe Acrobat 7 or higher. To explore the iTunes Music Store iMix, you need the current version of iTunes from Apple.

Developed for middle and high school audiences, this interactive timeline follows the development of this great American art form. Divided by decade, the timeline highlights events that helped shape jazz and illustrates the styles of each period through music and images.

Think About...

Reading Strategy: As you read, stay focused on your purpose for reading. Make your own timeline of the jazz movement broken down by decade.

Before you get started, think of what you already know about jazz and make a list of the most important facts that you can recall. Keep this in mind as you explore the interactive.

As you listen, make a list of qualities that each musical piece brings to mind.


  • What were some of the influences on the development of the jazz movement throughout the twentieth century?
  • What characteristics defined “the Jazz Age?”

Critical Thinking

  • What do you think was the most significant change in the jazz movement over the course of the twentieth century?
  • Why do you think the jazz movement took hold mainly in urban areas?
  • Who do you think was the most influential person in the jazz movement and why?
  • What role did globalization play in the development of the jazz movement?

Quiz Yourself!

  • List three jazz musicians of the twentieth century.
  • List five different instruments used to play jazz.
  • List three cities in which jazz was popularized in the twentieth century.

Learn More

Dig Deeper!

Take an audio tour of the jazz movement in 1930s Washington, DC

For the Educator

Want to download these tracks? Visit our iTunes Playlist.

It's time to get jazzed! As students scroll through the decades, they'll learn about important moments and trends in U.S. history. By listening to music clips within this historical context, students can gain an in-depth understanding of a musical form that took root in American soil and made a global impact.

Instructional Strategies

This timeline provides a great introduction to the history of jazz so it can be used as a starting point for independent research projects. Students can pick one of the musical styles highlighted in the timeline (i.e., swing, bebop, fusion) and create a project that explores that style in a more in-depth way. For instance, students could create:

  • CDs of music illustrating a particular style. Students pick the appropriate music to include on the CD, write an introduction to the style on the back of the CD cover, and design the front of the cover with a software program such as Adobe Photoshop or by creating a collage.
  • Timelines specifically focused on their chosen jazz style. Students determine the range of years that are important to the development of the style and include one historical event for every year in the range.
  • A "Question and Answer" interview with a key musician. Students pick a musician who is known for playing in a particular style and write a fictional interview as if the interview would be published in a magazine like Rolling Stone. They come up with questions that a journalist would ask the musician and, based on research, make up answers that they believe the musician might say.

Alternatively or in addition to the above suggestions, you could engage students with the following activities or discussion questions as they explore Jazz in Time:

  • How would students add on to this timeline? What is jazz like in the 21st century? Ask students to find an example of a renowned jazz musician who is alive today and invite each student to write a two- to three-paragraph description of this musician's work. Have them read their descriptions aloud and play two audio samples for the rest of the class.
  • Encourage students to delve deeper into the events and trends described in this timeline by conducting additional independent research. In what ways did the Civil Rights movement affect daily life and culture during its time? How is life during the Civil Rights movement reflected in the jazz of the time? In what ways has globalization affected daily life and how does today's music reveal the affects of globalization (i.e., combining instruments from different countries, modernizing folk music)?
  • Have students add historical events to each decade. Ask them to provide more information about a topic that is already mentioned, such as the Great Depression, World Wars I and II, the Great Migration, or the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King. Students focus on a person who would have been affected by a particular event. Invite students to write a memoir describing the event from the perspective of that person.
  • Practice students' reading comprehension skills by asking them to explore Jazz in Time then answer the following questions: Which four musical styles were instrumental in shaping the early roots of jazz? Which events and trends helped to spread jazz across the nation and around the globe? Name three different examples of jazz styles that mirrored an aspect of society at the time that the style emerged.



Daniella Garran
Original Writer

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