Black History Month in the Piano Studio!

Charlie Parker Book

I LOVE February because of Valentine’s Day and Black History Month! There are so many great activities for music learning that can be used with these themes as a backdrop. So, with Valentine’s Day behind us today’s focus is a simple and fun music lesson with a nod to Black History Month.

In this lesson, the student will learn how to play a jazz tune about legendary jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker using the 5-finger scale. It is designed for 3-6 year olds.

You will need a copy of the board book Charlie Parker Played BeBop and a recording of the song by Louise Rogers.

Away from the piano, play the recording of the song while reading the book with the student. Feel free to dance around, snap fingers and tap toes. Encourage your student to sing along with the call and response in the song.

Now, announce to your student that they are ready to play this song on the piano! If the student already knows some or all of the 5-finger scales have him/her play one for you. (The recording uses the Bb scale). Even if the student has not learned any scales, you can still use this activity to teach them the scale.

Your student will play the chant “Charlie Parker played BeBop” which occurs again and again in the song.

Here are the notes: C D E F G E

Once you have done this a couple of times, you are ready to play along with the book. Allow the student to turn the page and play at the appropriate time. You can even do this as a duet since it is in call and response style. Be sure they sing along!

Afterwards you can ask a couple of review questions –

“Who was Charlie Parker?” Ans. Charlie Parker played bebop.

“What instrument did Charlie Parker play?” Ans. Charlie Parker played alto saxophone.

Jazz For Young Children

If you read my previous post about the Jazz Education Network Conference  that I recently attended you already know that I am really excited about incorporating some of the many ideas about music education I was exposed to while there. Today I want to share some of the ideas on teaching young children about jazz in both the group setting and the private lesson.

The picture above is from the cover of a jazz CD for kids as young as preschool by music educator and artist Louise Rogers. I used songs from this CD in my preschool music class this week and the children LOVED it! While listening to the CD the children experienced jazz rhythms, scat, jazz history and jazz themes. Even some of my shy preschoolers who usually don’t dance during music time got on their feet and moved to the beats!

My favorite thing about Bop Boo Day is the way Louise uses poetry set to jazz to teach the children the history of this music and familiarize them with some of the jazz greats like Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and others.

This week I’ve also used the CD to play in the private piano studio as students arrived for their lesson. The jazzy beats really helped the kids (and me) get geared up for their lessons after a long day of school. We kept the music going from the door all the way to the piano keys as I showed the students how to play along with the songs on a single note in swing rhythm. If you’ve been looking for a fun way to encourage your students to improvise, this works really well.

If you’re interested in resources to help you teach jazz to young children, check out the JEN K-8 Jazz Education site here.