This Jazz Man, He Plays…Everything! Working with WPAS at the Sitar Center in Washington DC by Story Tapestries Master Teaching Artist Debbi Arseneaux

I had a blast this summer teaching at the Playful Rhythms Camp with Washington Performing Arts Society at the Sitar Center. WPAS asked Story Tapestries to bring a little drama to this great music and arts summer camp. With campers across a wide range of ages, we took a colorful and fun text and brought it to life using our Actor’s Tools: our body, voice, mind and imagination. The book follows the rhyme scheme of the classic children’s song This Old Man and each number is represented by a different jazz legend playing a different jazz instrument. So for the first day, we created sounds and motions to go with each number from the story, taking the words right off the page. There were Pages from This Jazz Mantrumpets, and drums, and keyboards, oh my! Students worked together in groups to layer the instrument sounds and motions, like they would in an actual band. I was impressed with how well the older students stepped into leadership roles with the younger students when asked to “lead the band.”
For the second day, we created our own jazz band characters, giving them a unique instrument movement and sound that reflected a personality trait decided by the student. They drew these characters and wrote out the sounds of the instruments. We reflected on how important it was for us to work together to make music and how we can communicate through music. Again working in groups to rehearse, they created their own jazz bands and performed for each other. I loved the idea of encouraging each camper to celebrate their originality and to figure out how to jam together. They had to really listen to each other to be able to combine and layer the sounds. Even in summer camp, kids can be learning vital life skills and we can help their love of learning!

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