Did you know that April is Jazz Appreciation Month? Jazz has deep significance to American culture. Some even say that it was America’s first true original art form, emerging from ragtime and blues, and deeply influenced by African American traditions mixed with French, Caribbean, Italian, German, Mexican, American Indian, and English, to gradually form a new sound.
The Smithsonian National Museum of American History operates the world’s most comprehensive set of jazz programs and even has its own jazz orchestra in residence, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. Jazz Appreciation Month (or JAM) was created by the Smithsonian in 2001 to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz.
One of the reasons the Smithsonian chose April to celebrate JAM is because a number of leading figures in jazz were born in April: Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Herbie Hancock, Bessie Smith, Johnny Dodds, Charles Mingus, Lionel Hampton, Gerry Mulligan, Shorty Rogers, and Tito Puente, to name a few.
Each year, a different musician is honored as the poster artist for JAM. In 2023, the poster artwork is a sketch from the Smithsonian’s LeRoy Neiman collection of trumpeter Miles Davis created during or soon after Davis’s July 5, 1981 performance at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall (now David Geffen Hall). You can download the poster for free here.
As a culminating event, April 30th is International Jazz Day! International Jazz Day was founded by UNESCO in 2011, and is the world’s largest celebration of jazz. The artform is recognized for promoting peace, dialogue among cultures, diversity, and respect for human rights and human dignity. For a complete list of events worldwide click here.
Forte is designed for all music students and every musical genre. We have many teachers who either specialize in jazz or otherwise enjoy teaching it, and any instrument can play jazz music!
If you’re a teacher, try exploring jazz in your own music lessons. For a comprehensive set of jazz educational resources, including curriculum guides, audio and video clips, and archives, check out the Smithsonian’s jazz education page.