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Children’s Museum jazz, five piano finalists, Kroon at Abyssinian

Jazz Notes

Ron Scott | 5/29/2014, 5:43 p.m.
Designing your own record Photo by Ron Scott

Recently, preschoolers were totally involved in their new activities as they were introduced to jazz through arts and crafts and live music by pianist and composer Jonathan Batiste.

This interactive jazz experience for preschoolers and older children is a new jazz exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (212 W. 83rd St.) entitled “Jazzed! The Changing Beat of 125th Street,” which is running now through December 2014.

The exhibit is the result of a collaboration between the Children’s Museum and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. “This is a year’s worth of work putting this project together,” stated Loren Schoenberg, artistic director of the National Jazz Museum. “This gives us an opportunity to introduce this great music to youngsters and also get their parents involved as well. The Children’s Museum is a great asset in this project.”

The featured artists of this exhibit are Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. After watching a 1921 performance of Robinson’s stair dance routine at the Palace Theatre in New York, children were having tons of fun tapping up and down a set of “Tap-Dancing Stairs,” framed by painted red curtains. One of the daily jazz workshops also helps children design their own tap shoes.

“Duke Ellington: Big Band Instrument Making” allows children to create a drum, guitar or banjo using recycled boxes, paint stirrers, rubber bands and collage material. These fun little instruments actually work, and the children were really amused by the little sounds.

In the workshop “Ella Fitzgerald: Learn to Improvise!” with the iPad app Garage Band, children can record their own version of tunes like “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” or “Happy Birthday,” including scatting, then save it to SoundCloud to download at home.

Don’t be afraid to sing or scat at the 1930s jazz club microphone or sit at the little round table and listen to Fitzgerald’s scat improvisations and the voice of Billie Holiday!

Ellington’s granddaughter, Mercedes Ellington, who was present for the opening, noted, “Music and children is such a great combination. This is the best time to introduce them to the music; they soak it up like a sponge.”

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Jonathan Batiste plays the melodica with children at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan.

“Romare Bearden: My World as Colorful Melodies” offers children an opportunity to design a jazz-inspired collage using sheet music as well as periodicals donated by the Jazz Museum in Harlem.

The Jazzed! web wall infographic shows how the jazz of the Harlem Renaissance is connected with multiple generations and has impacted the art and culture of today.

On display from Ellington’s band are Ben Webster’s saxophone, Cootie Williams’ trumpet and a record sleeve signed by the entire band (on loan from the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University).

Pianists will play every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday during the months of July and August. There will be live performances on Saturdays and Sundays beginning June 1 with Meg Okura and the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble.

This exhibit is one of the best all-around interactive fun programs that invites youngsters into the swinging world of jazz. The exhibit is great fun for kids and those accompanying them.