Let Freedom Swing: Conversations on Jazz and Democracy

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Music is the foundation of life and culture. And music certainly reflects culture - think of all the different global musicians you love, and how their music is central to a place. Music is also an agent of change, and of learning - and it is constantly evolving.   Let Freedom Swing is an extraordinary project (with curriculum!) that explores and shares the relationship between democracy and jazz. Begun from a single concert and expanded to videos, curriculum, and conversations, Let Freedom Swing can be used by educators of all ages, subjects, and languages to start a discussion, and truly engage the students in learning. The website also has an incredible resources section (always my favorite!), leading the reader to explore more about democracy and jazz.

 

 

"Jazz calls us to engage with our national identity. It gives expression to the beauty of democracy and of personal freedom and of choosing to embrace the humanity of all types of people. It really is what american democracy is supposed to be." Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

 

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center Wynton Marsalis - Photo Credit_Nick Himmel for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center Wynton Marsalis - Photo Credit_Nick Himmel for Jazz at Lincoln Center

 

We were lucky enough to sit down and chat with Margaret Crocco, one of the creators of the curriculum (along with Ellen Livingston). Margaret Crocco is a professor of social studies and chair of the Department of Arts and Humanities at Teachers College, Columbia University. Here's what she had to say...

 

 

WE: Please tell us about Let Freedom Swing, Conversations on Jazz and Democracy...

MC: This project began with a concert at the Kennedy Center on the Eve of President Obama's inauguration. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Wynton Marsalis discussed the parallels between jazz and democracy at this event. The Rockefeller Foundation, which had underwritten the event, thought that there could be curriculum made from portions of the concert.

 

Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center Wynton Marsalis, Carlos Henriquez, and Walter Blanding  Photo Credit_Meghan Thornton for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center Wynton Marsalis, Carlos Henriquez, and Walter Blanding  Photo Credit_Meghan Thornton for Jazz at Lincoln Center

 

 

WE: What inspired Let Freedom Swing?

MC: The shared love of jazz and democracy of two American icons - Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Jazz Great, Wynton Marsalis.

 

 

WE: Who is involved in Let Freedom Swing?

MC: Those who created the project are the Rockefeller Foundation, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Documentary Group, and Teachers College, Columbia University. There are many historians and musicians who are featured in the three short films. They are too numerous to mention but are included in the films and film credits.

 

Dave Brubeck and Wynton Marsalis perform in Jazz at Lincoln Center's Let Freedom Swing Concert. Jan. 19, 2009. Photo by Theo Wargo-Getty Images for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Dave Brubeck and Wynton Marsalis perform in Jazz at Lincoln Center's Let Freedom Swing Concert. Jan. 19, 2009. Photo by Theo Wargo-Getty Images for Jazz at Lincoln Center

 

 

 

 

WE: How can educators best use Let Freedom Swing?

MC: Watch the films. They are only 5-6 minutes each. Use the study guide to discuss what is in the film. Pursue some of the extra resources as part of a class project to extend students' understanding of jazz and democracy.

 

 

WE: Jazz is such a strong American tradition - how can educators extrapolate this, globally?

MC: Many people worldwide know and love jazz, and if they don't, they will be captivated by this original musical form. It could be part of their cross-cultural understanding of a key aspect of the American Musical Tradition.

 

 

WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

MC: Not only is this educative, but it's fun. The short films are lively and entertaining. The connections between jazz and democracy will stimulate thinking in very creative ways that will enrich understanding of both of them.

 

Jazz at Lincoln Center

 

 

WE: Thanks so very much, Margaret! We LOVE Let Freedom Swing, and highly recommend it to our Wandering Educators.

 

 

For more information, please see:
http://letfreedomswing.org/

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Jazz at Lincoln Center

Feature photo:
Wynton Marsalis and others perform in Jazz at Lincoln Center's Let Freedom Swing Concert. Jan. 19, 2009. Photo by Theo Wargo-Getty Images for Jazz at Lincoln Center

 

 

 

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