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New Jazz Curriculum in San Diego City Schools

Members of the University City High School Band
are addressed by Director Mike Cummins and
Karen Evans of the San Diego City Schools.

Copyright©2005 sandiego.com, Inc.

Last week, San Diego City Schools middle school teachers were given a training session on a curriculum that dealt with axes, fake books, left hand rootless voicing and vamps (*).

No doubt you've guessed this to be the language of the only musical form originated in America: Jazz. The documentary film maker Ken Burns said of Jazz: "By its very nature, no one person can ever be the center of jazz." The effort to create and present this new curriculum between Wynton Marsalis, The Lincoln Center, San Diego City Schools and Jazz88/KSDS-FM proves that point by demonstration.

Jazz great Wynton Marsalis created the curriculum in his role as Artistic Director and co-founder of "Jazz at Lincoln Center" and in cooperation with the Louis Armstrong Education Foundation. Michele Schroeder of the Lincoln Center said that the program was in use in 3,000 schools in the country but that San Diego was "one of a handful" of school districts placing the program into multiple schools. The curriculum includes:

  • 10 CD set of newly recorded music performed by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and guests, exploring such topics as the blues, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington;
  • a Teaching Guide that leads music teachers through jazz styles, musical concepts, historical information and more;
  • 30 student guides featuring listening charts, activities, biographies and photographs that reinforce musical concepts;
  • a behind-the-scenes video of a curriculum recording session

(from left) Steve Ebner, Program Facilitator;
Michele Schroeder, Lincoln Center; Mark
Deboskey, KSDS-FM; Karen Evans, San Diego
City Schools; Claudia Russell, KSDS-FM and
Ernie Smith, University High School Principal.

Copyright©2005 sandiego.com, Inc.

Jazz88 (KSDS-FM) purchased 24 of these packages to give to the San Diego City Schools. "It's been a long time goal of the Visual and Performing Arts Department that a quality jazz program be found and infused into our existing music curriculum," said Karen Evans, Director for that department. "This dream was created by Ella Steinburg, previous VAPA Director. We expect to train elementary and secondary teachers in the use of this curriculum and to offer every SDCS student he opportunity to experience its rich heritage," she said.

Jazz88 also contracted with musician Steve Ebner to travel from school to school as a part-time facilitator for the program training the teachers. Mark DeBoskey, Jazz88 general manager said: "While KSDS-FM is itself a nonprofit organization, the cost is well worth it. The funding for this gift comes from our supporting members and underwriters who are committed to seeing the future of Jazz being as robust and meaningful as its rich heritage." KSDS-FM/Jazz88 is owned by the San Diego Community College District. Founded in 1951, the station began programming jazz in 1973. The station can be found at 88.3 on the FM dial.

To debut the program following the first night of teacher training, jazz musicians from University City High School gathered and played several pieces. Band Director Mike Cummins and school Principal Ernie Smith were in attendance with the press along with Karen Evans, Director of the Visual & Peforming Arts Department of the San Diego City Schools; Michele Schroeder, Associate Director of Education for the Jazz at the Lincoln Center in New York; Mark DeBoskey, General Manager of Jazz88/KSDS-FM and some of this staff.

* Definitions (from A Passion for Jazz, Glossary of Terms) :
  • axe: one's instrument
  • fake books: a collection of Jazz charts published without paying royalties
  • left hand rootless voicing: left-hand chords sprinkled in irregular syncopations under the right-hand melody
  • vamp: a simple section like a riff, designed to be repeated as often as necessary; also a repeated bass line over which a solo is played