Students learn about the early days of jazz in New Orleans and compare early New Orleans marching bands to contemporary marching bands.
- Length: 1-3 class periods
- Grades: 9-12
- Students will learn about the history of jazz music.
- Students will learn about the influence of early 20th-century New Orleans culture on jazz music.
- Students will learn about the influence of New Orleans marching bands on jazz.
“Louis Armstrong/Introduction to Jazz”
From: Humanities Through the Arts
Vocabulary, Materials, and Handouts
brass band, brass instruments, ensemble, jazz, marching band, percussion instruments, woodwind instruments
TV/VCR or DVD player, access to the Internet, materials for student presentations (poster board, markers, PowerPoint, camcorders, etc.), inexpensive instruments (for performance assessment)
- Multiple-Choice Questions
- Answer Key
Instructional Strategies and Activities
Introduce the video excerpt by telling students to think about marching bands. What images come to mind? Do they think of jazz marching bands? Tell them jazz great Louis Armstrong followed marching bands around New Orleans as a child and later played trumpet in those same marching bands. Show the excerpt.
After viewing, continue the discussion about the New Orleans jazz scene and Armstrong’s role in it. If time allows, consider playing jazz recordings or showing portions of the Ken Burns PBS television series Jazz.
The video excerpt notes that after the Civil War, New Orleans became known for its marching bands, which helped lay the groundwork for the development of jazz by Armstrong and others. Assign students, in small groups or individually, to research the history and influence of marching jazz bands in early New Orleans. Have them search for answers to the following questions:
- What instruments were used in early New Orleans marching bands?
- Why were these particular instruments suited to the needs of marching bands?
- What were the purposes and occasions for which bands marched?
- How were the bands formed, organized, and outfitted?
Students should consult general jazz histories, early histories of New Orleans, and web sites on early jazz and New Orleans jazz. Then, using the material they’ve collected, instruct students to identify the influences of the original New Orleans marching bands on today’s numerous kinds of marching bands. They may choose to compare and contrast the two groups in terms of music, arrangements, instrumentation, or other characteristics.
Each group should prepare a presentation for the class. The presentation can be in a variety of media. Possibilities include a poster, a PowerPoint® presentation on “Marching Bands Then and Now,” or a 60 Minutes-style “investigation” of the influences of early jazz marching bands on today’s school, college, parade, and/or military marching bands.
Note: Research can be done as homework or in class, at the teacher’s discretion.
Writing To Communicate
- Have students interview school band members, drum majors, band directors, or other community members involved with marching bands and write feature stories for the school newspaper or a community newspaper or other resource. The stories could focus on comparing todays marching bands to early New Orleans marching bands or on another aspect of marching bands, such as the music, how marching patterns are planned and learned, and the type of music played.
Applications Across the Curriculum
- Have students look for poems about jazz music and describe and discuss how the language and elements of the poems (rhyme, rhythm, meter) compare to musical rhythms, meter, and other musical elements as heard in jazz music. They can read some of the poems to a background of jazz music.
- Have students identify and discuss examples in which marching bands or small ensembles were used for historic occasions or ceremonial pomp and circumstance. Consider fife and drum corps; bagpipe bands (in war and other uses); military bands; drum and bugle corps; and hunting/sporting calls using trumpet, French horn, or other instruments.
Open Response Assessment
In the KET video excerpt Louis Armstrong/Introduction to Jazz, New Orleans is called a city that loves music.
Taking into consideration New Orleans history, culture, demographic makeup, and geographical location, suggest possible reasons why New Orleans deserves to be called a city that loves music.
Open Response Scoring Guide
|Student demonstrates extensive knowledge of concepts, vocabulary, and historical/cultural context of the art form and applies this knowledge consistently and effectively. Student communicates this knowledge and understanding effectively, with insightful use of supporting examples and/or details.||Student demonstrates broad knowledge of concepts, vocabulary, and historical/cultural context of the art form and applies this knowledge effectively. Student communicates this knowledge and understanding effectively, using supporting examples and/or details.||Student demonstrates basic knowledge of concepts, vocabulary, and historical/cultural context of the art form and makes some correct applications of this knowledge. Student communicates this knowledge and understanding using some supporting examples and/or details.||Student demonstrates limited knowledge of concepts, vocabulary, and historical/cultural context of the art form and makes inappropriate or underdeveloped application of this knowledge. Student communicates this knowledge ineffectively, with few or no supporting examples and/or details.||Blank or irrelevant response.|
Model the performance of a marching band.
Using hand-made or easily obtained inexpensive instruments such as kazoos, tin whistles, party horns, shakers, drums, or mouth sounds (such as “oompah”), have the class form a pick-up marching band. Lay out a march formation and route and execute a mini-marching performance. Use a marching band recording of a well-known melody such as “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” “Bridge Over the River Kwai,” or “76 Trombones” or a New Orleans jazz tune. If some students in the class play band instruments, the performance can be more sophisticated.
Have the band march on the football field or in another space where there is plenty of room to perform. If desired, some students can “play their own tunes” on their instruments. Band “uniforms” or hats are optional.
This exercise will give students a sense of what marching in a band is all about. If possible, the school’s band director or a student drum major might help with this activity. The activity should be fun as well as instructive.
Performance Scoring Guide
|Student participates with extensive creativity and enthusiasm and exhibits extensive understanding of the elements of marching band performance.||Student participates with some creativity and enthusiasm and exhibits broad understanding of the elements of marching band performance.||Student participates but shows little creativity or enthusiasm and demonstrates basic understanding of the elements of marching band performance.||Student participates but shows no creativity and enthusiasm and demonstrates minimal understanding of the elements of marching band performance.||Student does not participate.|
Support - Connections - Resources - Author
- Ken Burns Jazz, a PBS television series available on video or DVD
- The Jazz web site at www.pbs.org/jazz has general source materials connected to the Ken Burns series.
- The All About Jazz web site (www.allaboutjazz.com) includes information on the history of jazz and a timeline.
- Marching.com has information about contemporary marching bands, focusing on high school.
- Hasse, John Edward, ed. Jazz: The First Century. New York: William Morrow/Harper Collins, 2000. (Chapter 1 is especially useful.)
- Gioia, Ted. The History of Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
- Shipton, Alyn. A New History of Jazz. Continuum, 2001. (See especially Part I, Chapter I: “Precursors.”)
- Ward, Geoffrey C. and Ken Burns. Jazz: A History of American Music. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. (This is the companion book to the Ken Burns series.)
- Miller, Marc H., ed. Louis Armstrong: A Cultural Legacy. 1994.
- Jazz: The Story of American Music (5-CD set accompanying the Ken Burns series). Sony Music/Verve Music Group, 2000.