Jazz Appreciation Month: Tune in this April

Constance Chien ’10
Web News Editor

For all you jazz fanatics, both current and potential, April is Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM).

Now, what exactly is Jazz Appreciation Month?

As its name would suggest, it is a month in which jazz’s history, longevity, and enduring popularity is appreciated.

Jazz is a worldwide phenomenon. It began in the United States in the early twentieth century, primarily in the South. It was at first a combination of European and African traditions, and this fusion is evident in both its uniqueness and its fluid quality.

“The importance of jazz is that it allows the musician to have creativity,” said band teacher and jazz band conductor Nicholas Mariconda. “That freedom is appreciated not only by the artist, but by the consumer of the art.”

According to Mariconda, jazz is characterized by a certain “structured freedom” that has had a profound influence on modern music, whether it be contemporary classical music, hip hop, or pop.

The National Museum of American History (NMAH), having a rather extensive jazz collection, started celebrating JAM back in April of 2002. Since then, they have taken the opportunity to hold many events. In fact, on its website, the museum claims to have the most extensive set of programs in the country.

There are special concerts and talks in April at the museum. The NMAH acknowledges the month and takes the opportunity to display special exhibitions and hold lectures and workshops on jazz and its history. Other museums around the country have taken the same path as the NMAH and have done their own events in celebration of the month.

During JAM, people are encouraged to listen to jazz recordings on the radio, go to jazz concerts, and read jazz-related books. This is an opportunity to focus on jazz, to appreciate the oh-so-American musical concoction that is jazz for both its formidable history and its enduring popularity and loveliness.

So this Jazz Appreciation Month, listen to some old Ella Fitzgerald recordings; there are many videos of her performing on YouTube. She is brilliant, and her rapid streaming of nonsensical words (called scatting) is quite a spectacle. Or maybe attend A Thurber Carnival, the Staples Players studio production coming up early this April. It has a definite jazzy feel, and there are singers performing jazz standards in between segments. There’s even a small jazz band accompanying the show. And why not attend jazz concerts? There is, indeed, a jazz band at Staples.

Whatever you decide to do, this April, try to support the original American institution that is jazz. Celebrate improvisation, celebrate individuality, celebrate American roots. And remember , without jazz, modern music would be quite, quite different.