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Fife & Drummer

Collection: America
Discover the multicultural heritage and history of America through explorations of immigrant life, the lives legendary pioneers like Lewis and Clark, the modern political system, and significant works of American music, including our National Anthem.
America, Blues, History, Jazz, Military, Rock & Roll, Space, Native America

African-American Boy

Collection: African-American History
Learn about the African American experience through the arts — and discover the contributions of African Americans to the history and culture of the United States.
Africa, America, Folklore, Geography, History, Jazz, Music, Playwrights & Plays, Dance, Blues

A Female Singer Performing

Article: Taking Care of Your Vocal Athlete
A resource for parents of young singers with a guide to choosing the right teacher
Musicals, Music, Family, Jazz, Opera, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Man playing harmonica

Grades 6-8 Lesson: Twelve-Bar Blues
Learn about the history, key players and musical qualities of the blues
Jazz, Music, Music Legends

John Coltrane in Performance December 2, 1962 Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Rhythm & Improv: Jazz & Poetry
The musicality of words is an important element of poetry, and many poets carefully consider the sound of the words on the page. Students will listen to and analyze jazz music
Jazz, Poetry, Music

Bessie Smith

Grades 3-4 Lesson: Musical Harlem
Students will learn to identify musical styles and musicians associated with Harlem, focusing on jazz
Geography, History, Jazz, Music, America

Jazz Dancers

Grades 3-4 Lesson: Jazz Music, Dance, and Poetry
In this lesson, students will be introduced to jazz dance and jazz music. They will explore basic jazz dance movements, and will create a cinquain poem inspired by jazz music.
Dance, Jazz, Music, Poetry

The Great Migration

Grades 3-4 Lesson: The Great Migration
In this lesson, students will learn about the migration of African Americans to Harlem
America, Blues, Geography, History, Jazz, Music

Dancing feet

Video Series: Five(ish) Minute Dance Lessons
Our collection of Five(ish) Minute Dance Lessons will teach the moves that will let you hit the dance floor looking like a pro. From the African Dinhe, to the East Coast Swing, Charleston, Salsa or Cha Cha Cha, we've got you covered.
Dance, Latin America, Jazz, Africa

Betty Carter

Video: Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead
Under the direction of Jason Moran, Kennedy Center Artistic Advisor for Jazz, the Jazz Ahead program identifies outstanding, emerging jazz artist-composers in their mid-teens to age twenty-five, and brings them together under the tutelage of experienced artist-instructors who coach and counsel them, helping to polish their performance, composing, and arranging skills.
Jazz, Music, Young Artists, Jobs in the Arts

Drop Me Off in Harlem

Interactive: Drop Me Off in Harlem
Drop Me Off in Harlem will give students the opportunity to explore the art, music, and people that changed Harlem from a neighborhood into a historical landmark
Jazz, Music, History, Poetry, America, Music Legends, Art Venues

Jazz In Time

Flash Interactive: Jazz in Time
Take part in this in-depth exploration of one of America's richest musical forms, the jazz movement, which is investigated through interactive web content and music clips.
Jazz, History, Music, Music Legends

Blue Note

Audio Series: Celebrating Blue Note
This audio series celebrates the history and style of Blue Note Records on its 75th anniversary. Narrated by Susan Stamberg for the Kennedy Center.
Jazz, Music, Music Legends

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Louis Armstrong
"What we play is life."
Music Legends, Jazz, Music

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Benny Green
"A jazz musician is a juggler who uses harmonies instead of oranges."
Jazz, Music, Music Legends

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Miles Davis
"Do not fear mistakes, there are none."
Jazz, Music, Music Legends

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Duke Ellington
"Playing "bop" is like playing Scrabble with all the vowels missing."
Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Composers, America

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Duke Ellington
"Music is my mistress, and she plays second fiddle to no one."
Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Composers, America

William “Count” Basie

Arts Days: August 21, 1906: The Count of Jazz
As a jazz bandleader, pianist, and composer, Count Basie had few peers. He learned to play piano as a youngster, making up music to go with the early silent films of the day.

Working in Harlem and Kansas City, Missouri, Basie absorbed the regional styles of jazz into his own signature “jumping” sound, which referred to his spare piano, pulsating rhythm section, and riffs—a series of notes that are repeated throughout a song—created by his horn players. His band was less formal than others, demonstrating a new lightness and solo originality.

This 1981 Kennedy Center Honoree made jazz history night after night in concert halls and clubs around the world.
America, Composers, Jazz, Music, Music Legends

Charlie Parker

Arts Days: August 29, 1920: Rare Bird
As a musician who could improvise jazz and blues music on the fly, Charlie “Bird” Parker has few equals. With his alto saxophone and his deep reservoir of talent, Parker thrilled listeners with his playing on tunes like “Ko-Ko” and “Billie’s Bounce.”

He was one of the leading developers of bebop, a jazz form featuring four or five musicians, fast tempos, and jagged-sounding, complex melodies. He also crafted new ways of playing long solos that shattered the usual conventions. For example, he experimented with creating melodies using higher intervals of a chord than had traditionally been played.
America, Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Musical Instruments

Louis Armstrong playing the trumpet

Arts Days: August 04, 1901: Horn of Plenty
The great trumpeter Louis Armstrong soaked up all the pains and joys of a young man growing up poor and unequipped yet possessing an extraordinary musical talent. These emotions can be clearly heard in the jazz music he grew up to both play and sing.

There's little doubt that Armstrong was the most gifted and influential trumpet soloist in the history of the instrument. His innovations included playing high notes that had never been hit before, and holding these notes for long periods of time; creating vibrato or trembling sounds with his lips; and experimenting with rhythm to make music move, or "swing."

Armstrong's combination of singing and playing (both trumpet and cornet), plus his larger-than-life personality, made him one of the world's greatest and most memorable solo entertainers.
America, Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Innovators & Pioneers, Musical Instruments

Benny Carter

Arts Days: August 08, 1907: They Call Him “King”
What aspect of jazz did the great Benny Carter not master? This 1996 Kennedy Center Honoree played alto sax, clarinet, and trumpet. He composed and arranged songs, some of which, like “When Lights are Low,” are now considered jazz standards. And he was an in-demand bandleader for much of his career.

Largely self-taught, Carter began playing in Harlem nightspots in his teens. At 21, he made his first recordings with Charlie Johnson’s Orchestra, and in the 1930s, he lived in and toured Europe, spreading the gospel of this uniquely American music form.

This jazz legend shaped the big-band jazz sound more than just about any other musician before or since. As jazz great Miles Davis once said, "Everyone should listen to Benny Carter. He's a whole musical education."
America, Music, Music Legends, Jazz

Betty Boop

Arts Days: August 09, 1930: The First Boop-Boop-Bee-Doop
Cartoonist Grim Natwick had no idea the little brunette who emerged from under his pen would captivate millions with her squeaky Brooklyn-accented voice and “va va voom” persona.

Betty Boop debuted in the cartoon Dizzy Dishes. She was originally drawn as half French poodle, half human (her famous hoop earrings, for example, were poodle ears in the beginning). But within a couple of years, the poodle parts were ditched, and Betty became the first animated sex symbol.

Modeled on a jazz-era flapper, she sported a large head on a small body, lending her a childlike quality. However, her developed figure and flirty gestures were decidedly those of a grown-up woman.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Popular Culture, Jazz, Movies & Movie Stars

The Cotton Club

Arts Days: December 04, 1927: Setting Up Shop in Harlem
Go back to the corner of Lenox Avenue and 142nd Street in Harlem and the very night Duke Ellington and his orchestra first played for an adoring crowd at New York City’s Cotton Club. This evening marked the beginning of a tremendous four-year residency. Ellington and his musicians provided dance music for the club's performers, African American dancers in incredible costumes who performed songs, dances, and comedy routines for all-white, high-society audiences.

Ellington’s trumpet players, trombonists, and saxophonists—from Bubber Miley to Harry Carney—were each amazingly gifted in their own right; under Ellington’s direction, the orchestra melded into a rock-solid, jazz-playing unit. Soon enough, Ellington, his band, and their music were exposed to a national audience when these shows were broadcast weekly on WHN radio.
Art Venues, Jazz, Music, Composers, Music Legends, America

Scott Joplin

Arts Days: November 24, 1868: The Ragtime King
Pianist and composer Scott Joplin was undoubtedly the best-known composer of ragtime, or “ragged time,” music. Ragtime’s main hallmark is its syncopated rhythms—marked by a stress on what would normally be an unaccented beat in the music, or a rest where there would normally be an emphasis. Popular in 19th-century dance halls, ragtime captivated music fans for a couple of decades before jazz became all the rage.

Audiences clamored for Joplin’s many compositions, like “Maple Leaf Rag,” “Pineapple Rag,” and “The Entertainer.” He even wrote a ragtime opera called Treemonisha. By combining natural piano talent and classical European training with the rich sounds of African American gospel hymns, spirituals, blues, and plantation songs, Joplin created a new American sound.
Composers, Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Music, America, Jazz

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