Since 1998, Eli Yamin has co-written with Clifford Carlson, five jazz musicals for children. The subjects of the musicals include the fight for Women’s Suffrage circa 1920 (Holding the Torch for Liberty), 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 cooperation, freedom and survival (Nora’s Ark), and an interpretation of a traditional African American coming of age folk tale (When Malindy Swings).
Each musical runs between 60 and 90 minutes and draws on the styles of one or more jazz greats in every show. Their artistic vision is drawn upon as new stories are developed and give the JDP a unique method for children to explore the world in which they live. Students learn to listen by way of Duke Ellington; to express individuality through Louis Armstrong and Sun Ra; to celebrate one’s playful yet prolific side as Thelonious Monk celebrated his; and to discover a voice (literally and figuratively) as Mary Lou Williams, John Coltrane, James P. Johnson, Eubie Blake, W.C. Handy, Ethel Waters and Count Basie discovered theirs.
“Our teachers are those great jazz musicians of the past,” says Clifford Carlson. “As their music continues to inspire us, so to do their teaching methods. These musical visionaries provide us with valuable lessons about teamwork, individual expression, improvisation, and the cooperation necessary to live peacefully and in harmony with others. Jazz is about diversity coming together to produce something greater than the sum of its parts. The United States is a Jazz Nation that celebrates the many voices of human expression.”
The JDP brings children from diverse backgrounds together in a rigorous and rewarding program of study. Cast members receive professional training in voice and song interpretation from Eli Yamin and other teaching artists. Professional choreographer, Shireen Dickson, a member of The Dianne McIntyre Dance Company, teaches children how to swing, tap, do the South African Gum Boot and the Cakewalk, as well as other more modern forms of jazz dance.