Middle School Jazz Academy: Inaugurated in 2006, JALC’s Middle School Jazz Academy (MSJA) is a skills- and aesthetic-based music education program that provides direct individual and ensemble training to students ages 11–13. In particular, MSJA addresses a shortage in music training opportunities for New York City public school children at the middle school level, in general, and in the performance of jazz music, specifically. MSJA gives promising students who possess a talent and passion for music, but lack the financial means for sustained comprehensive training, the opportunity to learn essential concepts in jazz and improve their instrumental skills. It also offers ethnically diverse students from economically disadvantaged families mentoring opportunities with professional musicians and teachers. For students facing the complex demands of school, family commitments, and adolescent life, MSJA helps them build confidence, discipline, and teamwork skills through challenging and energizing jazz pedagogy. In the coming year, MSJA’s successful model will be replicated in Brooklyn, with an eye toward creating satellite programs in each of the five boroughs.
The Middle School Jazz Academy is held over two semesters, October through May. During this period students meet as a group on Saturdays and have private weekday lessons with a professional instructor once per week. On Saturdays, students convene in the Irene Diamond Educational Center from 10 AM to 2 PM for classes in jazz history, jazz language (comprising lessons in rhythm, melody, improvisation and other music theory) and ensemble playing. Private lessons help individual students develop instrumental skills and clear any hurdles identified during ensemble activities. MSJA alumni also play a major role in helping to recruit students for the program, playing in alumni performances and jam sessions, and by acting as ambassadors for jazz throughout their communities. In the coming year, MSJA will grow its Manhattan ensembles to include 20-25 students (up from 15).
MSJA's curriculum, pedagogy, and the dozens of specialized scores that have been commissioned and/or arranged for the program over the past six years are a unique for the field and are resources that JALC desires to distribute locally and nationally, for free. By way of beginning this process, JALC plans to replicate MSJA, beginning in the borough of Brooklyn. By bringing the program into the community, JALC will benefit even more students of talent and passion through MSJA. Education staff has identified a band director who will lead the program and is currently planning auditions and seeking an appropriate community partner to host the program. It is anticipated that this ensemble will include 20-25 students.