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Final Chorus: Teaching Satchmo & Duke to 7th Graders

Mick Carlon brings jazz to the classroom

Years ago, a fourth-grade teacher in New York asked me to talk about jazz in her classroom and play some recordings. One of my favorites that I brought was a vintage New Orleans set by clarinetist George Lewis and his Stompers. By the third track, some of the kids got up and started dancing. Soon the suddenly sprightly teacher joined them. Milt Jackson had recently told me, “If jazz was regularly on television, we’d have a bigger audience.” But having jazz in the classrooms would also help the music gather fans. (Quincy Jones keeps working to get jazz into more schools.)

For years I’ve known a teacher, Mick Carlon, at the Barnstable Intermediate School (sixth and seventh grades) in Barnstable, Mass. From his first year there in 1984, he has been bringing jazz into his English and journalism classrooms on Fridays. This year, the school started “enrichment clusters” that allow teachers to introduce their own choice of a course that meets every Wednesday for six weeks. Mick, of course, is adding an actual jazz history major for his seventh-grade English students. “This music has so much energy!” one student told Mick recently. Another added, “I didn’t realize jazz has so many styles.”

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Originally Published
Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

Over more than 60 years, Nat Hentoff (1925-2017) wrote about music, politics, and many other subjects for a variety of publications, including DownBeat (which he edited from 1953 to 1957), the Village Voice (where he was a weekly columnist from 1958 to 2009), the Wall Street Journal, and JazzTimes, to which he regularly contributed the Final Chorus column from 1998 to 2012. Of the 32 books that he wrote, co-wrote, or edited, 10 focus on jazz. In 2004, Hentoff became the first recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Masters award for jazz advocacy.