The Jazz Power Initiative (JPI) has created unique, high quality jazz musicals that combine original jazz music and theater to enable communities to create a lasting formative jazz experience for young people.
Jazz Power Musicals are based on socially relevant stories, like the fight for women’s rights, addressing the environmental crisis, and learning to sing, play and dance the blues to heal a hurting world. These stories become internalized, the children take ownership of them, and the potential for a life-long love of jazz, in all its forms, is implanted.
Though the field of jazz education has grown steadily in the past 50 years, its primary focus has been on instrumental instruction and the creation of jazz bands in schools. Though these programs are important, they have failed to bring widespread acceptance of jazz as America’s art form at the heart of our culture.
Jazz Power Musicals meets a need that is sorely lacking in jazz education. While programs exist that teach jazz instrumentation, practically none exist for children who don’t play an instrument. Jazz Power Musicals offers youth and their communities the unique opportunity to engage with jazz as an entire aesthetic – including vocal expression, storytelling, call and response, dance and movement. As such, JPI has been able to give a wide range of youngsters who would otherwise have no exposure to jazz, a deep, fulfilling jazz experience.
Jazz is a way of looking at the world, an aesthetic that has inspired countless artists in music, film, dance, theater and beyond. The language of jazz demands improvisation, risk-taking, humor, and imagination. We have seen again and again that in igniting a powerful sense of community, diversity and self-expression, jazz can be transformative for our youth.