June 26, 2017


What is The Jazz Drama Program?

The Jazz Drama Program is a non profit, 501 c3 organization that was founded in 2003 to support productions of original jazz musicals by Eli Yamin and Clifford Carlson.

After producing a professional CD recording of Nora’s Ark, the jazz musical by Eli Yamin and Clifford Carlson, The Jazz Drama Program began to license the script and score and sell the CD and production CD to schools and communities throughout the U.S. and abroad who wish to mount their own productions of Nora’s Ark.

The Jazz Drama Program (JDP) has created unique, high quality materials that combine original jazz music and theater to enable communities to create a lasting formative jazz experience for young people. For more information, download this FREE information packet about The Jazz Drama Program.

What is “the language of jazz”?

Jazz is a way of looking at the world, an aesthetic that has inspired countless artists in music, literature, dance, theater and beyond.  The language of jazz uses improvisation, risk, humor, and imagination. Though much of popular music today traces its roots to jazz and blues, young people have yet to embrace it as their own.  This is mostly due to a lack of meaningful exposure to the art form.

Jazz is a language that is dynamic and engaging, offering a challenging platform for individual and collective creativity.  It provides a forum for new directions in theater for young people and an educational framework rooted firmly in the democratic values of America.

Why is The Jazz Drama Program important?

“Deemed a national treasure by the U.S. Congress, jazz is a unique American art form, and its musicians are recognized the world over as America’s cultural ambassadors.  Despite high-profile activities, jazz music does not fare as well as other music forms, making it challenging to maintain and continue this treasure.” (National Endowment for the Arts Research Report #43)

Though the field of jazz education has grown steadily in the past 50 years, its primary focus has been on instrumental instruction and the creation of jazz bands in schools. Though these programs are important, they have failed to bring widespread acceptance of jazz as America’s art form at the heart of our culture.  Many schools don’t have band programs and many students are not touched by current jazz education efforts.

The Jazz Drama Program meets a need that has been sorely lacking in the field of jazz education.  Various programs exist to date that teach jazz from an instrumental instruction perspective, but practically none exist for children who don’t play an instrument.  The JDP offers a unique, rare opportunity.  By developing stories which use the language of jazz, not just the music but in the whole aesthetic, the JDP has been able to give a wide range of children who have otherwise no exposure to jazz, a deep, fulfilling jazz experience.  The stories become internalized, they take ownership of them, and the potential for a life-long love of jazz, in all its forms, is implanted.

Why produce a Jazz Drama Program musical?

Producing a jazz musical in your community is a lot of fun!

The music is filled with joy and a wide range of emotions and contains blues, swing and bebop.  The story of Nora’s Ark is loved by communities worldwide.  Whether or not your students have experienced jazz before, the story will bring them in, the music will then be free to take over.

How is The Jazz Drama Program innovative?

The largest non-profit organization dedicated to jazz in the world is Jazz At Lincoln Center (JALC).  While JALC’s programs include presenting concerts, workshops and jazz curriculum to diverse populations, none of its programs combine jazz and theatre.  The combination of jazz and theatre opens up a whole world of possibilities.  The subjects of JDP musicals include growing up as a contemporary teen (Hear My Voice); the healing power of the blues (Message From Saturn); a modern retelling of Noah’s Ark with themes of freedom, cooperation, and survival (Nora’s Ark); a dramatic retelling of the struggle for women’s suffrage (Holding The Torch For Liberty); and an interpretation of a traditional African American coming of age folk tale (When Malindy Swings). The JDP is a new framework for jazz education that gets whole communities involved in the jazz aesthetic.  With its joyous rhythms, room for individual expression, raw emotional power and capacity to heal, children discover how jazz can be an invaluable resource for life.

What is The Jazz Drama Program promise?

Real and lasting social change comes from learning environments that are truly challenging, stimulate imagination and curiosity, and engage our full capacity for artistic expression, teamwork and discipline.

“For us, education signifies an initiation into new ways of seeing, hearing, feeling, moving…” (Dr. Maxine Greene)

The JDP offers an initiation into jazz as a compelling language and aesthetic to express both historic and deeply personal truths.  Seventh grader Tatiana Walker performed in Holding The Torch For Liberty, which tells the story of the fight for Women’s Suffrage circa 1920.  Tatiana writes, “I learned that in 1920 women had it tough.  If it wasn’t for their boldness, power, optimism and courage, women wouldn’t have the rights they have now.  This experience has changed me by allowing me to visualize through dance and music, it helps you find your inner voice and soul, it keeps you motivated on the weekends and it teaches you to be focused and to concentrate.”

What is The Jazz Drama Program vision for the future?

  • A world where jazz is embraced as America’s central art form, both in the U.S. and around the globe.
  • A world where jazz musicals are routinely produced in schools throughout the U.S. and abroad.
  • A world where young people are able to forge a lifelong relationship with jazz as a source of fun, excitement, strength and joy.