Welcome to the Jazz Drama Program site!
The Jazz Drama Program is a non profit, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to improving young people’s lives and their communities through experiences in jazz and theatre.
What We Do:
1. THE MATERIALS – We write and develop original, age appropriate jazz musicals with engaging stories that incorporate the cathartic power of swing and blues and can be presented by students and community groups anywhere.
2. THE METHODS – We develop and employ unique teaching methods that engage the whole child through immersion in jazz arts including storytelling, acting and dancing, along with healthy and expressive singing guided by the principals of Somatic Voicework™, the LoVetri Method.
The Jazz Drama Program (JDP) was founded in 2003 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization by jazz musician Eli Yamin and teacher Clifford Carlson to get young people involved in and excited about jazz. By commissioning new jazz musicals, recording CD’s and distributing scores and scripts and offering professional development for teachers and workshops for students, The Jazz Drama Program is building new audiences and stakeholders in the jazz arts through the mediums of storytelling, music, theatre, dance and visual arts. To date, Jazz Drama Program musicals have seen over 80 performances in fourteen states and four countries literally involving thousands of young people and their families in sustained exposure and involvement in the jazz arts.
UFT Citywide Arts Conference 2015
We had a fantastic time presenting on Sunday, November 8, 2015 at the UFT Citywide Arts Conference with Dance Director Shireen Dickson and Artistic Director Eli Yamin. Over 40 teachers sang and moved with us as we introduced the music and story of Holding the Torch For Liberty, about the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement and explored the jazz aesthetic and its potential to enliven the study of language, social studies and the arts.
2015 Fall Benefit Gala Digest
“We were truly uplifted by the evening you organized for children singing jazz, with Love and Appreciation.”
– Judith and Jon Hendricks
Thank-you all Jazz Drama Program supporters for a phenomenal Fall Benefit Gala which raised over $30,000 for the coming year’s activities involving youth and their communities in JAZZ!
It was an amazing celebration of the life and legacy of two of our great jazz elders – Jon Hendricks and Cobi Narita hosted by the charming and soulful Ron Claiborne of ABC News, a die hard jazz fan.
It was great to share the night with you Wednesday. Truly one for the record books. The musical and inter-generational magic was astounding and lifted everyone’s spirits.
Thank-you to all friends, family, volunteers, board & advisory board members, sponsors, artists, honorees, parents/guardians who made the night such a glowing success. Here are a few comments we received…you can add yours by emailing us at email@example.com.
Let’s keep this Jazz Drama fire burning bright!
“It was great to share the night with you Wednesday. Truly one for the record books. The musical and inter-generational magic was astounding and lifted everyone’s spirits.”
“Great show! One of the most beautiful moments last night, among many beautiful moments, was the juxtaposition of old and young. I think each got satisfaction and respect from the other. So rare to see old people and young people together like that. Really powerful.”
“…there were no egos in the room. I had to think for a moment and had to agree. The seasoned talents were applauded and so were the youngsters. Especially the young people, they did not tire of being in a room full of grown-ups! I also said to several people, how lucky the youngsters are to have music to sing from this era, their moment. The first pieces of music I learned were from traditional sources and from the American Popular Song book. I do not remember how long I was singing before I got my hands on a piece of blues music. Your students are very lucky.”
“Thanks for giving me the chance to sing with my musical father.”
– Marion Cowings
“…the expression in Cobi Narita’s face as I read the words of tribute to her was just amazing. She was deeply, deeply moved, honored, grateful. I was at first startled. It was real and it was profound.”
– Ron Claiborne
First Ever – Jazz Drama Program Summer Jazz Arts Institute
We did it! On July 1 and 2, we broke ground on the first ever Jazz Drama Program Summer Jazz Arts Institute. With my great colleagues LaFrae Sci, Tom Dempsey, Shireen Dickson, and Jeanie LoVetri we launched what we hope will be a vital charging station for imaginative education through jazz for years to come. Thanks to Lehman Stages at my alma mater, Lehman College, City University of New York in the Bronx, we had two days to go deep into different modalities of teaching and learning in jazz. We asked questions about what do teachers and students need to have a great experience exploring jazz? What fundamental skills and aesthetic values do they need to access? How can we deliver them in an engaging, enriching and revitalizing manner?
After I gave a brief introduction to the Institute, master singing voice specialist Jeannette LoVetri gave a stunning two-introductory overview of Somatic Voicework ™, the LoVetri Method. This method of training singers prepares you to sing jazz and blues by developing your awareness of the different registers of the voice-head and chest and how to mix them with ease to get the particular sounds and vocal flavors that you want. It may seem obvious that singing the blues is different then singing Italian opera, but for too long, there has been little formal training available to those of us who want to sing American styles of music, most of which flow out of the blues. Jeanie’s method is based in up to the minute information from leading doctors and medical researchers in the field of voice science and it was a tremendous treat to hear directly from Jeanie how we can begin to develop a healthy foundation for learning and teaching singing jazz and blues. For more information on Jeanie’s teaching method, visit Somatic Voicework.
Next, Jazz Drama Program Dance Director, Shireen Dickson, gave us a hands on workshop in Making Jazz-Based Dances. The dance workshop scaffolded specific universal jazz qualities onto pedestrian (everyday) movement to demonstrate how easily movement phrases can be developed to tell stories. While the class’s primary objective was to demonstrate how a jazz platform can offer an immediate point of entry for all bodies, and how this technique is used when working with JDP youth, the session also modeled very clear hallmarks of JDP’s dance education rubric: body percussion, musical phrasing, rhythmic pedestrian movement, improvisation, collaboration, and sharing.
Day One concluded with teaching artist, drummer and composer LaFrae Sci leading participants into the well of African American song and rhythm from which jazz music and culture flows. This session combined vocal, rhythmic and body movement to explore spirituals and the blues as a foundation of jazz learning across disciplines: vocal, instrumental, solo, dance and theatrical work. The session was presented as a critical complement to more traditional, foundational jazz instrumental and vocal learning and guided participants to embody blues vocal expression as well as the shuffle rhythm as the foundation of swing and the key to accessing the healing properties of jazz.
Day Two began with a review of Somatic Voicework ™, the LoVetri Method, led by teaching artist, singer and songwriter, Cindy Hospedales, who is also a Level III certified Somatic Voicework teacher. Cindy presented the method as student-centered and ideally suited to meet students where they are at. She showed how isolating registers can help determine vocal issues that need to be addressed and demonstrated specific vowel sounds to use to access head, chest and mix registers and specific strategies for blending and extending range. Cindy emphasized the point that when teaching students to sing, teachers must know how to recognize certain problems that inexperienced singers typically face and have concrete information that provide solutions, especially when it comes to expressive singing in contemporary music, formally known as Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM).
After the vocal session, teaching artist, guitarist, author and Professor at LaGuardia Community College, Tom Dempsey, led us into a cross-modality exploration of Improvisation. The workshop began with a wide ranging discussion branching off from intriguing quotes on improvisation such as the one below by Ralph Ellison.
“There is a cruel contradiction implicit in the art form itself. For true jazz is an art of individual assertion within and against the group. Each true jazz moment (as distinct from the uninspired commercial performance) springs from a contest in which each artist challenges all the rest, each solo flight, or improvisation, represents (like the successive canvases of a painter) a definition of his identity: as individual, as member of the collectivity and as link in the chain of tradition. Thus, because jazz finds its very life in an endless improvisation upon traditional materials, the jazzman must lose his identity even as he finds it.” – Ralph Ellison
Upon listening to Miles Davis Quintet’s live performance (1964) of “My Funny Valentine” with Miles Davis – trumpet, George Coleman – tenor saxophone, Herbie Hancock – piano, Ron Carter – bass, Tony Williams – drums, participants identified key components of jazz improvisation taking place and contributors in the group. There was discussion on the elements of sound (timbre, dynamics, rhythm, articulation, etc) and how the essential aspect of listening fueled meaningful interaction between group members that contributed to the overall masterpiece of the recording. Some key words shared by participants: Playfulness, Feeling, No eraser, Courage Collaboration, Supporting, Vulnerability, Control, Critical thinking, Yes and…, Generosity, Dexterity, Shared language.
The final workshop of the day was led by teaching artist, musician, actor, Program Director at Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Mario Giacalone. The theater workshop complemented yet challenged how participants viewed vocal and physical improvisation from an abstract rhythmic place. With a previous foundation laid in Tom’s Improvisation session, participants, with the clear instructions to “not think just do” and “give yourself permission,” who had never experienced this type of workshop were able to push against comfort boundaries, and see immediate relevance to their own non-theatrical artistic/teaching practices.
We concluded the Institute with a discussion that reviewed Jazz Drama Program practices that we experienced in the Institute.
Teaching in a circle (communal)
Taking things step by step.
Embrace the role of women. ** (A lot of awful male performances are seen having prominent roles, whereas women, typically get minor/insignificant roles.
Interactive improvisation/Experiential group.
Body awareness. Holistic, vocal, body, mindfulness.
Just do it. Be in the moment and embrace the Judgement Free Zone.
Permission parameters (Ex. You can do whatever you want in the circle, BUT… do not lose eye contact.)
Have teachers on equal playing field as students/teachers as facilitators.
Meeting students where they are.
Remember to always incorporate the blues, as that is the grounding foundation of JDP.
*** THIS is what differentiates JDP from other European art forms. It separates from emphasis on technical ability and focuses more on freedom/expressing.
Culture of the blues = Accessible. Comes up from “the people”.
Mindfulness of connections between different disciplines. (Dance, Vocalists, etc.)
We are working on a more detailed paper outlining the activities of The Jazz Drama Program’s Summer Jazz Arts Institute 2015 at Lehman College. Please let me know if you are interested in receiving a copy when its done by leaving a comment below. Also, we are gathering names of teachers and teaching artists who might like to join us next summer at the Institute. We plan to have it around the same time-end of June/early July. You can contact us by visiting The Jazz Drama Program, where you will find the latest information on the organization’s activities and methods.