Jazz Appreciation Month holds educational concert series at MU, nationally

Both the MU community and larger cities have acknowledged the history and contemporary forms of jazz music through educational events during Jazz Appreciation Month.
Jazz Appreciation Month kicked off on April 1, 2019. Courtesy of wealwaysswing.org

Jazz Appreciation Month officially kicked off April 1 with events held around the nation, including within the MU community. Over the next month, MU will host dozens of jazz related events through the “We Always Swing” concert series.

The upcoming events are aimed at promoting education about jazz music and as an entertaining way to celebrate historical artists and more modern artists.

Josh Chittum, assistant director of the “We Always Swing” concert series in Columbia, said that Jazz Appreciation Month started in April of 2001 and was created by the Smithsonian Institution. He noted that the “We Always Swing” series participates with organizations across the country and not just in Columbia. He said New York City, Detroit and San Francisco, among other cities, hold numerous large events over the course of the month.

Chittum also noted that thus far in the month, there have been a number of events that have contributed to students’ education in Columbia.

“Already this month, we’ve had two concert presentations in elementary schools and middle schools and we’ll have more of those coming up,” Chittum said. “We’ll have our open house on April 30, which is International Jazz Day. It’s hard to say what we’re not doing because there’s so much happening.”

Chittum said as assistant director, he books concerts and helps plan each individual show. Also, he said he takes the initiative to find ways to make Jazz Appreciation Month educational for MU students.

“I take the lead on the educational steps as well, so that includes contacting schools and their principals and music teachers because I want to inspire and educate students on what jazz is,” Chittum said.

Similarly, Larry Brown Jr., a Chicago jazz artist who has toured for 20 years, had an interview with a Larry Brown Jr. vlog page that honors him, in which he said that the promotion of education on jazz music is a key part of Jazz Appreciation Month.

“One of the primary purposes of these events is to continue to educate younger generations about the richness of this music, the culture surrounding it and the history that comes with it,” Brown said.

Brown also noted that the month offers a means of remembering the foundations of jazz music and how it surfaced.

“Across the nation, Jazz Appreciation Month is a time to reflect on our forefathers and the contributions and courageousness that they showed to embark on this journey of developing jazz music that we still perform and celebrate today,” Brown said.

Brown added that it doesn’t matter which part of the nation the events are taking place, because ultimately they all serve the same purpose, which is to celebrate older jazz artists, more contemporary artists and this style of music in general.

On a national scale, several books have been published in honor of Jazz Appreciation Month. According to University of California Press, renowned musicians have made claims about the quality of these books.

Musician and NPR contributor Will Layman said the book “Why Jazz Happened” successfully sheds light on the pieces of jazz that deserve to be told.

“‘Why Jazz Happened’ makes its points like a snazzy lawyer in the courtroom: zip zam zot… students and fans of jazz will come away enlightened about a huge part of the jazz story that has been mostly untold, before this otherwise intelligent and well-reported book was published,” Layman said.

As events continue over the course of the next month, Chittum said the Columbia community has plenty of big events in store.

“This Friday we’ve got the MU Concert Jazz Band at The Shack,” Chittum said. “Later on we have the New York Standards Quartet who will stay after their performance to give a workshop to the MU Jazz Tenant students free of charge.”

Jazz Appreciation Month ticket sales will direct the proceeds to the education programs behind the “We Always Swing” jazz concert series.

Edited by Janae McKenzie | jmckenzie@themaneater.com

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