Operation Jazz Band

Operation Jazz Band

Over the past 16 years Operation Jazz Band has introduced thousands of grade 5 students to the living tradition of jazz by bringing professional musicians into their classrooms. Students learn about music in general, jazz in particular and are encouraged to take up an instrument. These music education programs represent a vital service to constituents in an era when such curriculum has virtually disappeared from California classrooms.

Beginning with percussion and continuing through rhythm, melody and vocals, every fifth grade student in the area learns about the history and fundamentals of jazz. Watch the video below to see what the program covers.

Professional musicians, led by Bay Area percussionist and educator Babatunde Lea, spend an intense week in six different area schools. Two troupes of musicians each visit three schools a day for consecutive days each spring, and all meet up at the Raven Theater for a fifth day of combined performance and engagement. Beginning with percussion and continuing through rhythm, melody and vocals, every fifth grade student in the area learns about the history and fundamentals of jazz.

The first day of Operation Jazz Band begins with the oldest form of music, drumming and percussion. Schoolrooms are filled with sound and laughter! Students learn call-and-response techniques, and how this form of communication among slaves made its way into jazz music.

The second day focuses on the rhythm section. Musicians explain how keyboards and bass anchor a jazz combo, and they always explain each instrument’s musical heritage.

The third day focuses on horns, with a trumpeter, saxophonist and trombonist going over each instrument’s strengths and demonstrating the interplay between the horns as a way to introduce the concepts of chords and harmony. Improvisation is a central theme this day, demonstrating to the students how a simple song can become a jazz tune through improvising.

The fourth day features a jazz vocalist explaining how the human voice can become a jazz instrument. The children learn to scat, plus learn a song they can sing along with the band.

The week ends with all the students attending and participating in a concert with their new musician friends. In addition to “tying it all together” for each group of students, the concert brings schools – public and private – from all over the community together for a joyous celebration of music. The students have newly-educated ears for jazz, they’ve learned how to listen to music in a new way, and the roar of sound when their musician-teachers take the stage is astonishing! The concert reviews everything they’ve learned, and the children sing, clap hands and call out on cue. By the end of the concert, the students are chanting ” I … LOVE … JAZZ!” in a joyous affirmation of the universal power of music.

OJB classes provide positive, sophisticated and enjoyable opportunities for students to witness creative musical performances that boost cross-cultural understanding and learn about jazz, which has been a part of American music for a century. OJB helps students develop creative thinking and curiosity and stimulates cooperative class work.

For more information call 707-433-4633, send us email. If your own schoolchild has taken part in these workshops, please add your comments below!