Jazz Appreciation Month: Happy Birthday Duke Ellington!

Berklee City Music is proud to say “Happy Birthday!” for Jazz Appreciation Month to jazz composer, bandleader, pianist and innovator Duke Ellington!  In an art form primarily associated with improvisation, Ellington stands out for his imaginative, moving and swinging compositions, which inspire jazz musicians to this day.  He was one of the earliest jazz artists to experiment with extended structures and long form works, for example his groundbreaking Black, Brown and Beige as well as his many suites.  His music consistently explores a range of colors and moods, drawing upon influences as diverse as the blues, American popular song, Western classical music and African folk.

Born and raised in Washington, DC, Ellington led small groups in his hometown before moving onto New York, where his band grew larger and eventually moved into Harlem’s famed Cotton Club.  From there, Ellington’s creativity as well as his popularity exploded, leading to what some historians have described as a lifelong tour.  Duke Ellington and his orchestra (which retained many of the same core players over several decades) would travel across the globe until his death in 1974.  His music would continue to shape how jazz is played and understood.

Jazz Appreciation Month: The Original Cat

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and what better way to kick off the festivities than with the music of Louis Armstrong.
“Satch” is considered jazz’s first great soloist.  His brilliant tone, powerful technique and inimitable swing forever changed how jazz was heard, played, and understood.  Not just an instrumental innovator, Armstrong brought a relaxed, imaginative vocal style to popular song while introducing listeners to scat singing.  As musicologist and historian Gunther Schuller observed, Armstrong’s music “served notice that jazz had the potential capacity to compete with the highest order of previously known musical expression.”  Louis Armstrong continues to influence generations of artists in jazz, American popular music, and beyond.

Here’s Armstrong from early on in his career at a concert in Copenhagen, already serving as an ambassador for the music:

Women’s History Month: Not Just Cab’s Older Sister

Even if her little brother Cab gets more attention in history books,
Blanche Calloway was singing and directing bands long before his
first “ho-de-ho.”  Blanche Calloway began her musical career touring
with pioneering early jazz figures such as Eubie Blake and Florence
Mills .  Ending up in Chicago at the height of the Jazz Age, Calloway
became popular in the jazz epicenter as well as other music capitals
such as New York and Kansas City.  She organized her first band in
1931, possibly the first female director of an all-male band.
Calloway struggled with segregation and sexism though she was praised
for her musicianship, stage presence and management throughout a
nearly fifty-year musical career.

Berklee City Music honors this pioneering female artist for Women’s
History Month.  Here’s just a sample of Blanche Calloway’s energetic
vocals and spirited direction:

Do You Know What Music Means In New Orleans?

New Orleans has played a pivotal role in the development of American music, and Berklee City Music is fortunate to count three outstanding Network members from this cultural mecca.

The Roots of Music offers tuition-free music education and academic tutoring, with its marching band continuing a proud tradition of the New Orleans community.  The core faculty offers instruction in band, brass, curriculum and percussion while partnering with Tulane University to invite additional instructors.  Among other accomplishments, the Roots of Music’s Marching Crusaders can be seen in the Tournament of Roses parade this January in California.

Under the guidance of their artistic director, acclaimed saxophonist Donald Harrison, Tipitina’s Foundation teaches middle and high school students instrumental skills and recording/production techniques free of charge.  Students also participate in workshops with musicians, producers, and scholars.  In addition, Tipitina’s Foundation provides instruments to local schools and operates business development centers for artists across Louisiana.  Students from Tipitina’s Internship Program recently travelled to Japan as part of a cultural exchange program.

Young Audiences of Louisiana works in local schools to provide a variety of programs that combine the arts, academics and life skills to a range of audiences. Programs include afterschool and summer classes, community performances, artist residencies, early childhood arts instruction and professional development for educators.  In November, Young Audiences received approval to open a charter school that will “emphasize academic excellence and use research-based Young Audiences arts-integration programs to engage students and support teaching and learning.”  The school will open its doors in August 2013.

These unique organizations preserve New Orleans’ rich musical heritage while educating and inspiring new generations.  Berklee City Music is proud to partner with all three and congratulates them on their myriad accomplishments.


StubHub Names The Roots of Music Their First Rising Star

Roots of Music Band Performs in the Rose Parade

Disasters, Jazz Unite Young New Orleans, Japanese Musicians


Tipitina’s Foundation in Japan


Jefferson Parish School Board Approves Young Audiences Charter

New Jefferson Charter is a Creative Option