Youth training in singing, dance and theatre in diverse and culturally aware environments, to cultivate courage, curiosity, and compassion.
Jazz Power Initiative’s music education program centers African American vocal traditions supported by healthy functional voice training and piano keyboard musicianship combined with theatre and movement for an immersive and transformational learning experience. Our holistic, cross-cultural, and multidisciplinary approach to jazz music and arts education activates an inclusive atmosphere that fosters teamwork, self-discipline and creative expression. African American and Latino cultural foundations of jazz arts guide our process, including the models of excellence we provide the children, the background of our faculty, the repertoire we select, the communities we serve, and the “Jazz Power Tools” we teach such as improvisation, making a soulful sound, call and response, syncopation, and swing.
Our culturally relevant pedagogy increases artistic and social emotional skills and is in alignment with New York City, State and National arts learning standards, as well as best voice practices published by the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS). The resulting data from evaluations and assessments from teaching artists and students allows us to assess the success of our program by identifying areas of student growth.
Our voice pedagogy cultivates awareness of voice function for healthy, expressive and free singing in African American singing traditions that form the foundation of many styles of American singing; including jazz, blues, gospel, R & B, rock, pop, and country. Our dance pedagogy uses African American dance traditions to increase kinesthetic, spatial, and musical awareness, and our theatre pedagogy explores key questions for the actor in a scene in support of internalizing lyrics of Jazz Power songs as well as basic stage directions.
Our multi-tiered recruitment strategy ensures we reach a majority underserved African American and Latin American population with tuition-free training 23 weeks a year. Over 600 children ages 10-18 receive one hour or more of training and 25 students receive over 80 hours of training throughout the year. During our scaffolded cycle, students are immersed in jazz culture through the study of voice, dance, and theatre in group classes with acclaimed teaching artists, private lessons in piano keyboard and voice, and given a piano keyboard to take home and keep in support of the development of musicianship.
Students who participate in two or more years in the program are invited to participate in Zah! Ensemble, our advanced ensemble of high school, college, and post-college youth that rehearses weekly and performs frequently throughout the year with a band of seasoned professionals. Recent performances include the Clean Energy Inaugural Ball for President Joe Biden and Vice President, Kamala Harris, The United Palace in Washington Heights honoring Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jazz at Lincoln Center as well as our monthly Intergenerational Jazz Power Jam at National Jazz Museum in Harlem.
Jazz Power Initiative provides audition preparation support for students applying to specialized high schools in NYC and has had students attend LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, Frank Sinatra High School of the Performing Arts, Celia Cruz Bronx High School of the Arts, and Talented Unlimited High School. We support students’ preparation for college and have had two students receive full scholarships to attend college; one at NYU and one at AMDA. Other Jazz Power students have attended City College of NY, Lehman College, Marymount Manhattan College, SUNY Purchase, and Stony Brook University (SUNY).
OUR LEAD TEACHING ARTISTS
Artistic Director Eli Yamin is a pianist, composer, singer, and educator who has been spreading the joy of jazz through his work for 30 years including 10 years as founding director of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Middle School Jazz Academy. Eli tours with his blues band and jazz quartet, has released several CD’s and has performed at The White House, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and over 20 countries as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. Department of State. Eli sincerely believes learning about jazz should feel as creative as playing jazz and consistently shares this experience with students of all ages.
Dancer/Choreographer Mickey Davidson won an Audelco award for choreography of “For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” directed by Ntozake Shange. She joined Dianne McIntyre’s ground breaking “Sounds In Motion” in 1975 and danced with the company for eight years. She has worked closely with jazz artists Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, the World Saxophone Quartet and was mentored by original Savoy Ballroom dancers Frankie Manning and Norma Miller. A beloved New York veteran of arts education, Ms. Davidson has an extensive background in African American dance styles and led the African American Dance program at Wesleyan University for 17 years. In addition to teaching with Jazz Power Initiative, she teaches at the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp in New Orleans and is a passionate advocate for making the authentic jazz dance traditions available to the next generation.
Antoinette Montague has a love of humanity and mission to bring joy to people through music, Antoinette has played at New York City’s major clubs and concert halls including Jazz at Lincoln Center, Kitano, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, and is a regularly featured favorite at the popular Harlem-based Jazz Mobile Concert Series. NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Heath says, “Antoinette has the instrument, delivery and enunciation, when performing, that touches my soul.” Her latest acclaimed release is World Peace in the Key of Jazz and features her arrangements of classic songs from the Civil Rights movement.