This I know. 45 years of teaching children of all ages carries three indisputable truths.
1) Children love music.
2) Children are (mostly) naturally joyful.
3) Children care that things are fair.
And so as adults, we owe all three things to the children we raise, nurture and love. And so, Jazz, Joy and Justice.
1) Jazz is not the only music worthy of our children’s attention. But it is certainly one of the most important ones, the way that it marries the body to the soul, the heart to the mind, touches the full range of our human possibility. We owe it to our children to introduce them to it all.
2) Music brings joy and jazz, born from sometimes unimaginable suffering and sorrow, is one of the most joyful musics that planet has known. If you need to be convinced, spend some time with Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Thelonious Monk. We owe our children all the joy and happiness we can offer alongside the comfort and healing of inevitable sorrow and sadness.
3) The children’s intuition that fairness is important can grow to the larger dimension of justice and the story of jazz musician’s lives and what they endured (and endure) in a culture that consistently failed to deliver the promise of justice to their doorstep is the one we are obligated to tell to the children if we are to move the moral arc forward. We owe it to our children and we owe it to our nation.
So why not bring the three together as one? Go beyond mere duty and finger-wagging political demands with a musical soundtrack to the social justice work. Not just enjoy the music like a dessert-first treat that is just sweet and yummy with little nutrition, nor just hear the stories like a liver-and-onions meal good for you, but short on taste, color and pleasure. Bring them together.
See you at the dinner table!