Any age school audience can benefit from Jazzistry’s multimedia combination of story telling and musical illustration. But the content emphasis and length of performance vary depending on the age of the audience. Young students delight in discovering that the ice cream truck’s tune is in fact the ragtime classic, The Entertainer, by composer and pianist Scott Joplin. Middle Schooler’s relish the self-expression of jazz in the form of improvisation when musicians push the limits, experiment and do their own thing! High school students can figure out the big picture with music and history intertwining. They see exactly how the Free Jazz of the 1960’s mirrored the political unrest and climate of protest over Vietnam and civil rights. Click on the links for an overview of the elementary, middle and high school programs.


The Jazzistry Elementary School Program is for students, from kindergarten on up!

The complete Elementary Program includes:

  • A Teacher in-service workshop
  • 5 Artist Visits where Vincent works with classroom groups
  • A full band presentation that lasts 60 minutes

Students are dazzled

Nothing compares to seeing the musical instruments, getting to know the artists, and hearing the sound of a live jazz band in full swing.

Students become engaged

Vincent York steps out in front of the band and talks directly to them, using playful anecdotes, marching, singing, and jazzed up versions of familiar tunes to win them over. Jazzistry’s goal is to delight elementary students with a type of music that most young people dismiss as old fashioned and to shed new light on history. With Jazzistry’s help, students make their own connections to music and history!

Students learn that jazz is an American treasure

Jazzistry explores the African roots of jazz, influenced by many other cultures and developed over a century by Americans of African descent. Jazzistry shows this music has enriched our lives as Americans in more ways than we can count!

Jazzistry is a jumping off place for learning lots more!

  • The etiquette of listening to a live performance
  • African musical instruments and traditions
  • The instruments of the jazz band
  • Great jazz musicians
  • Blues poetry and the Harlem Renaissance 
  • Slavery, the Triangle Trade, the Constitution, Bill of Rights – 5th grade
  • Geography of jazz – 4th and 5th grades
  • Inspires students to pursue instrumental music


The Jazzistry Middle School Program is for students in 6th-8th grade.

The complete Middle School Program includes:

  • A Teacher in Service Workshop
  • 5 Artist Visits
  • A full band presentation that lasts 60 minutes

Jazzistry reinforces American History Curriculum

Students time travel with the narrator and the musicians to the slavery-based economy of the 1800s, the migration of rural Southern blacks to industry in Chicago, the Jazz Age of the 1920s, and today’s music scene.

Students are attracted to the freedom of expression in Jazz

They discover the roots of jazz in the percussion patterns and intonations of faraway Africa that were the only forms of cultural preservation for enslaved Africans.

Jazzistry takes students by surprise

For many young people, seeing a live jazz performance is a first-time encounter (in contrast to electronic and digital entertainment). Even so, much of the music in Jazzistry is familiar to their ears—especially as it relates to rock, R & B, rap, and hip hop.

Jazz history gives the context for learning in many directions!

  • The etiquette of listening to a live performance
  • Blues Poetry
  • The writers, thinkers, painters, and musicians of the Harlem Renaissance
  • Great jazz musicians
  • Geography of jazz
  • Gender issues in jazz history


The Jazzistry Integrated High School Program is for students in 9th-12th grade.

The complete High School Program includes:

  • A Teacher In-service Workshop
  • 5 Artist Visits coordinated with subject area teachers
  • Students undertake a Multiple Intelligences self-assessment
  • Students participate in pre- and post-production Jazzistry Band show
  • A full band presentation that lasts one hour and ten minutes

Jazzistry reinforces American History, Language Arts & Humanities curricula.

History comes to life in every chapter of Jazzistry’s story. Example: American jazz spread to Europe after World War I when a group of African American soldiers became the jazz heroes of Paris. Lt. James Reese Europe had been ordered to do the job of bandleader as well as to serve as commanding officer of the Harlem Hellfighters, 15th Regiment Machine Gun Battalion.

Jazzistry shows how everyone has multiple talents and skills.

Vincent York uses his own life story to demonstrate to students how important it is to develop multiple skills. Students are introduced to Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences and take an on-line self-assessment to help determine their diverse skills. In the culminating Jazzistry Band performance, students assume many of the back- and front-of-the-house roles, including singers, musicians, dancers, MC, rappers, lighting, sound technician, graphic design, and stage management.

Jazz expresses deep feelings.

Music served as the outlet for emotions. For millions of enslaved African in the mid-1800s, spirituals and blues forms developed as their covert way of expressing joy, sorrow, desire, suffering, and hope. Under the yoke of oppression, self-expression survived and manifested itself in jazz as improvisation.

Jazz catches students off guard.

Surprised by the familiarity of the music heard in Jazzistry, students are also intrigued by the relationship of jazz to most forms of popular music today. Jazz Factoid: The last album, Doo-Bop, of jazz giant Miles Davis was released after his death in 1991 and contained the distinct and emphatic accents of rap and the dance rhythms of hip hop. We often hear students say, “I had no idea MY music was connected all the way back to history!”

Jazz gives a context for discussing complex social issues.

The long history of segregation in American influenced jazz’s texture and artistic direction. Despite how contact with other ethnicities overwhelmingly transformed American culture, governments worked to keep races separated and women in strict house-bound roles.

US racial integration of the culture was aided by Jazz:  For example, in 1937 Benny Goodman-The King of Swing-was invited to be the first jazz concert in prestigious Carnegie Hall, but was told to only bring the white musicians in his integrated band. He refused and Carnegie Hall eventually gave in. His band including Charlie Christian, Lionel Hampton and other greats. It was the first concert and recording with an integrated band (11 years ahead of Jackie Robinson integrating pro-baseball).

At the peak of her career, Billie Holiday closed every show with the controversial song, “Strange Fruit,” a graphic anti-lynching song. She used her position and fame to educate her audiences and make a powerful social commentary on the reality of Jim Crow South.