Janet Lawson | Jazz Vocalist
920 Riverside Drive, Apt. #8 | New York, NY 10032
212-496-2568 or 646-369-7207

Jazz Journey A Study Guide with Janet Lawson

Photo by Breck Chapman

"Jazz Journey" is an Artist-in-Residency, multicultural interactive program for children of all ages. It honors cultural differences and encourages respect for the cultures which make up America. "Jazz Journey" traces the history of Jazz, born in Africa and evolving through the journey of slaves to the Caribbean and the black churches of the South, through New Orleans to the big city "Bebop" sounds.

More about Jazz Journey:

Jazz Journey, in an Artist-in-Residency Program, offers children of all ages an interactive opportunity to participate in a learning experience not only about this extraordinary history but also about themselves as unique individuals. Improvisation, the essence of Jazz, opens up the door of creative expression in a way that is non-judgmental and accepting of each person's contribution. The broad expanse of the diverse cultures in Jazz, musically, geographically, and socially, provides a canvas of openness for each person to put her or his stamp on and contribute to the continuing development of what makes Jazz so accessible and pertinent in our lives.

The cultural diversity of Jazz is, by its very nature, the most timely art form to be offered to children of today whose exposure to the world around them has never been greater.

In the multi-cultural world of Jazz, every sound that's played, sung, composed, arranged or improvised, draws from the profound history of the journey that brought Jazz to America. This Journey encompasses countries of diverse backgrounds, ceremonies that uniquely honor its people, combinations of instruments indigenous to each country's natural resources and connections to their social fabric and a style of music that represents its vital importance in the evolution of the music and of the people who create it.

When all cultures express their personal contribution to humanity, a picture is created that respects the individuality within the spectrum of the whole picture. Each rhythmic pattern of a drum from Africa links to the Call and Response of the voices of struggle in the fields down south in America and makes a pathway north, just as the people did, into the big city sounds of freedom and originality.

Jazz Journey is cultural diversity in its most potent form - as an artistic expression of all people connected to the music in their own souls in a symphony of life with others.

Jazz Journey Study Guide


Through this residency and performance students will learn about the evolution of JAZZ. They will see how it follows the migration of West Africans brought as slaves to the Caribbean and through the American south, and how the music changed in these different regions, finally forming the various types of Jazz we know today. Students will have the opportunity to sing, dance, create rhythms and improvise with each other.

On a musical journey through Africa, students sing several different rhythms, imitating animal movements and other sounds of nature. These POLYTHYTHMS (Many rhythms at the same time) originated in Africa and are the roots of jazz music.


From Africa, we follow these sounds to the Caribbean. Here the whole body becomes the instrument. Students express the flavor of LATIN Music through specific body rhythms such as bottom wiggles, shoulder pops and elbow flaps while learning to sing a Caribbean song like "St. Thomas."
Building on Call and Response music we will move on to demonstrate "THE BLUES." The Blues is really a story song about what you feel. This personal style allows students to sing about their own moods and emotions. At the same time they will learn about the "VOICES" of individual musical instruments and how they sound in a group and ENSEMBLE.

The 12 bar blues is a simple introduction to musical FORM.
Journeying through New Orleans, students are introduced to a Mardi Gras "ROMP." Jazz is presented in many ways in this part of the country - at parties, for entertainment, even at funerals where songs like "When the Saints Go Marching In," celebrate the continuation of life. The conversations this time will be spontaneous, with the children imitating various instruments with their voices. They can talk to each other with these instruments and, by doing so, learn what IMPROVISATION is all about and why it is so important in jazz.

Here we bring together all the elements of jazz we found on our journey. POLYRHYTHMS, LATIN SOUNDS, CALL AND RESPONSE, THE BLUES, and CONVERSATIONAL IMPROVISATION are all used as the children develop solos and learn to SCAT. They will have fun "TRADING RIFFS." with other members of their band. Young students love to use the microphone and "doo be boo" especially to songs like "The Flintstones," which is based on typical jazz chord changes. Older students will learn to pick notes form a song to build solos. This whole process is the basis for BEBOP.


JAZZ - An Improvisational American Music with a syncopated (irregular
rhythms) beat.
RHYTHM - A combination of various lengths of time (beat) in music.
POLYRHYTHMS - Many rhythms played at the same time.
LATIN - A sytle of music with rhythmic emphasis on specific beats originated in South and Central America and the Caribbean.
CALL & RESPONSE - A musical conversation between the caller and the answerer.
THE BLUES - A "story-song" played or sung in a short musical form that can be repeated with variations.
ROMP - A playful, lively way musicians communicate through their music.
IMPROVISATION - Making up music on the spot.
SCAT - Improvisational singing in a made-up language.
RIFF - A musical phrase repeated while a soloist plays or sings.


VOICE - ( singing) A solo instrument using words to lead the emotional direction of the ensemble.
PIANO - A familiar instrument which plays chords and directs the harmony of the ensemble.
BASS - A stringed instrument which functions both as a harmony instrument and a time keeper.
DRUMS - The main time keeper of the ensemble.
WIND INSTRUMENT - Another voice ( sometimes a trumpet, saxophone or a clarinet ) which also leads the ensemble.


Locate the Caribbean on the map.

Locate West Africa on the map.

Is all music written down for people to play?

What sounds of nature do you think the music of West Africa imitated 200 years ago?

What instruments do you think jazz musicans use?

Do you know anyone who plays these instruments?




Trace the path of the slave traders who took people from West Africa.


Slaves taken from West Africa to the Caribbean and United States
New Orleans is a
Multi-Cultural Melting Pot
The Blues Begins in the American South
Mardi Gras Romp in New Orleans
Be Bop is Popular in American Cities
Jazz is the Basis for Many Kinds of Popular Music

"Jazz Journey" was conceived and developed by Janet Lawson and Lenore Raphael and based on a concept by Carman Moore
Study Guide by Jamie Downs