Seeing how much they have in common – unpredictability, bottomless energy, mood swings, and sometimes being an acquired taste – it’s no surprise that kids can quickly develop an affinity for jazz music, as long as their first exposure is age appropriate and, most importantly, fun.
Fortunately, New York City parents possess an embarrassment of opportunities for introducing the littlest of family members to the coolest of musical forms – just in time for International Jazz Day on May 26!
Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra
Every Sunday through June 3, then picking up again in the Fall, at 1 PM inside Jazz Standard on 116 East 27th Street in Gramacy Park, it’s jazz by kids for kids! The Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra, featuring musicians as young as eleven years old, plays Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker for fans of all ages. A $5 donation is required for the concert, and there is also a lunch option, spanning the gamut from a children’s menu for the tots, to an open bar for you. As a bonus for feeling good about the outing, they even donate $1 from each child menu order to Spoons Across America, an organization dedicated to healthy eating habits.
Jazz for Kids
Toronto-born now New York-based vocalist Amy Cervini has released three jazz albums and performs regularly for adults, but from 2:00pm-3:00pm one Sunday afternoon a month, she belongs to the younger generation at 55 Bar on 55 Christopher Street. For $5 a person, children ages 2-6 are invited for an hour of kid-friendly jazz and plucking of percussion instruments with a woman who agrees with Duke Ellington that “there’s just two kinds of music, good and bad.”
Hipsters (8-16 months old), Stompers (2-3 years old), Gumbos (3-5 years old) and Syncopators (4-5 years old) can wail the blues (as if they needed an excuse) as they swing to nursery rhymes like you’ve never heard them before in this plethora of classes from Jazz at Lincoln Center. The Fall Term begins on September 25, but registration opens June 4, and these suckers fill up fast! A free sample gig is available on September 8 or September 16 on a first-come/first-serve basis, so make sure you sign up ASAP!
The early childhood division of the New York Jazz Academy, Jelly Jamz offers Queens and Long Island based classes for tots ages 6 months to 4 years. The curriculum draws upon classic and modern jazz, original songs, and traditional folk and world music while encouraging development through the integration of song, dance, rhythm and movement. Even the tiniest students are instructed in how to improvise on rhythm instruments through call-and-response, and to perform jazz “jam-a-longs” with classic recordings. If your baby likes to bang on things in a constantly shifting rhythm, bring him here. You may have a jazz prodigy on your hands!
Louis Armstrong House Museum
Jazz isn’t just music. It’s also a lifestyle and an attitude. And no one epitomized it better than a true jazz prodigy like Louis Armstrong. By the time of his death in 1971, he’d composed dozens of universally recognized standards, appeared in 30 movies and headlined over 300 concerts a year. This tour of his Queens home includes not only the sites where he wrote his music, but excerpt recordings, and documentary films. It’s the world’s largest archive devoted to a single jazz musician. Perfect for kids who not only like to listen, but also explore and touch! And for parents who prefer their jazz be performed by professionals.
— Alina Adams