SUISUN CITY — The students of Crystal Middle School haven’t heard of many of the jazz greats.
Some of them may have heard of Louis Armstrong, listened to Ella Fitzgerald, but certainly haven’t heard jazz musicians, singers and composers with funny sounding names like Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller.
That changed at Wednesday night’s Crystal Middle music concert. Music director Jennifer Doherty and art director Joanna Rockwell not only had students listen to jazz music, they had them embody some of the best of the best in jazz.
Crystal Middle School hosted its first art and music collaboration called “We Haz Jazz.” Doherty’s and Rockwell’s classes worked together to create the jazz experience, first with a musical performance then with an art show with a music theme.
The music performance was more like a musical, mixing acting with the music. The “Modern Day Kids” went back in time and interacted with influential jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Scott Joplin, played by the students.
Doherty, who is new this year, wanted to tie in the history of jazz just in time for Black History Month.
“It’s neat exploring the history behind jazz,” she said.
When the concert ended, the crowd was led by the Solano Winds playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” on a Dixieland parade to the art show.
Rockwell helped her art students explore the relationship between jazz music and art, initially by having them use watercolor to paint notes then by having them listen to and be inspired by jazz music.
Doherty and Rockwell each stressed the importance of having these programs in middle school, particularly with arts and music programs cut in most elementary school.
For art students such as seventh-grader David Batres, art is the way he expresses himself. Batres used charcoal to make his jazz piece.
“It’s cool because you create what you heard,” he said.
Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.