Summer Jazz Arts Institute Brings Together Educators and Artists

Summer Jazz Arts Institute Brings Together Educators and Artists

At the fourth annual Summer Jazz Arts Institute, hosted by Lehman College earlier this month, a dozen educators gained insights from professional artists on utilizing the elements of jazz across various teaching disciplines, and for the first time participants earned a graduate certificate for completion of the three-day program through the School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

Jazz Power Initiative, a not-for-profit organization headed by pianist-composer Eli Yamin, an alumnus of Lehman’s Masters of Teaching program, presented the Institute in collaboration with Lehman College’s Department of Music, Multimedia, Theatre, and Dance. Among the presenting artists at this year’s program were celebrated author and musician James McBride, Sweet Honey in the Rock co-founders Carol Maillard and Louise Robinson, popular jazz vocalist Antoinette Montague, and the Summer Jazz Arts Institute's co-chairs— choreographer-educator Shireen Dickson and guitarist-educator Tom Dempsey.

"This program makes a beautiful statement about what Lehman College is doing for the arts, and what others should be doing, too," said McBride, winner of the 2013 National Book Award for fiction. "We have to educate professionals so they know how to teach art to young people. That's our responsibility as artists, I think—to teach and circulate ideas."

The educators at the Institute learned about Jazz Power’s cross-modal teaching methods, which include improvisation, active listening, call and response, polyrhythm and syncopation, in order to help achieve deeper learning connections with students across different subject areas. Master classes in voice pedagogy, acting, writing, dancing and African American cultural history were part of the training as well.

"Returning to Lehman with the Summer Jazz Arts Institute is always a pleasure for me," said Yamin, managing and artistic director of Jazz Power and an adjunct professor of music at Lehman since 2017. "It is an exciting, collaborative experience for participants and instructors alike, where everyone learns from each other and comes away with an incredible appreciation for how jazz opens all kinds of doors for learning."

As part of the SJAI program, participants enacted a ring shout, transformed "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" via different rhythms, and reimagined the 150-year-old hymn "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior" both musically and lyrically with the help of Deborah Ashe, organist and vocalist at New Brown Memorial, a Baptist Church in Brooklyn.

Jennifer Vincent, a Manhattan-based bassist and cellist who participated in the Institute this summer, said: "The program provided me with some great tools to help teach groups of students in different instrumental situations. It is important to go past the routine essentials in music instruction and incorporate new ideas and strategies to get students more involved in their learning."