ClefWorks’ (CW) mission focuses on engaging a younger audience in events that promote the enjoyment of chamber music. One way that we develop this appreciation is through specially designed outreach events for local school children. Most of our partner schools provide no music education or their students have very few opportunities to hear high caliber artists in a concert setting. We enjoy filling this gap with energetic musicians who use imaginative programming and exceptional artistry in their presentations. Each concert integrates age appropriate learning activities. The sponsor of this year’s Outreach Concert Series was the Junior League of Montgomery. The League provided both funding and volunteers that allowed ClefWorks to successfully implement the project.
We took some time to ask Executive Director Leah Stephens a few questions. Here’s what she had to share:
Do you have any upcoming performances?
Last week ClefWorks hosted the Faculty Jazz Quartet from Troy University. The group, called “Jazz Comes Home”, played for kids at Flowers Elementary, Montgomery Christian School, E.D. Nixon Elementary and Baldwin Magnet’s YMCA Goodtimes students. Members of the Combo include Raymond H. Smith, Professor of Saxophone and group Artistic Director; Jim Bell, Adjunct Professor of Jazz Piano, Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame member; James W. Smith, Associate Professor of Music, Coordination of Music Education, Jazz Bass; and, Eric Ward, Assistant Professor of Music, Director of Jazz Studies, percussion. Students from Troy who assisted with sound included Kenny Beck and Darius Davis.
ClefWorks is in the process of selecting other artists to play for local audiences in late summer/early fall. Announcements about those concerts will be made through our ClefWorks Facebook page, e-newsletter and website: http://clefworks.org/.
April is Jazz History Month. Share a few tidbits with us.
ClefWorks selected a Jazz Combo to play for students this month in recognition of Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) so designated by the Smithsonian in 2001. This is ClefWorks’ second year to join the celebration by taking jazz music to local school kids. Other ways to celebrate JAM can be found at the Smithsonian’s website: http://www.smithsonianjazz.org/.
As our school kids learned last week, Jazz is America’s music. Alabama has some great connections to Jazz including famous jazz pianist and singer Nat King Cole who was born in Birmingham, Alabama.
How has working with local schools helped ClefWorks?
Our partnership with local schools has allowed us to introduce more youngsters to music. When these youngsters become engaged in classical music we are able to expand our audience to include new families. Often, because of the generosity of patrons, these new young fans and their “adults” have been extended complimentary tickets to attend special concerts held away from school.
Tell us about your recent performance at E.D. Nixon.
On Thursday, April 17, the combo Jazz Comes Home performed for the lower grades at E.D. Nixon Elementary School. The combo explained the origins of Jazz and took kids on a journey through time, explaining how jazz music has been affected throughout the years by various influences. Kids were invited to join the musicians on stage and participate in the music making.
Last year, prior to school ending, every 5th grader at E.D. Nixon was given a soft copy of the book Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra to encourage further exploration of music and summer reading. A hard copy of the book was also placed in the school’s library. ClefWorks hopes to conclude this year’s partnership with a similar gift.
Do you see a correlation between music and academic performance?
Studies by others tell us that there is a correlation between music and academic performance. For example, the combined results of 30 studies indicate that music instruction has a significant positive effect on reading. Standley, Jayne M. “Does Music Instruction Help Children to Read? Evidence of a Meta-Analysis”. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 27. 1 (2008), 17-32.