Jazz Appreciation Month

Examine collections of the Museum's key resources on major themes in American history and social studies teaching.  Additional resources can be found in the main search areas of the website.

Jazz Appreciation Month

April is Jazz Appreciation Month!  Celebrate America's music and the births of jazz greats Duke Ellington (April 29) and Ella Fitzgerald (April 25) with these resources. 

Duke Ellington and Jazz Homepage

Grade Range: K-4
Resource Type(s): Lessons & Activities, Reference Materials
Duration: 82 Minutes
Date Posted: 3/22/2012

Children and adults can enjoy exploring the story behind one of America’s pioneers of jazz music, Duke Ellington, through children's literature, museum collections, and hands-on activities. Focused around Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra, a picture book biography of the Washington, DC native, the module includes links to hands-on activities and a list of recommended readings for further exploration.

Sound Recording, "When the Saints Go Marching In"

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Artifacts, Primary Source
Date Posted: 3/22/2012

Born in New Orleans in 1901, jazz musician Louis Armstrong (d. 1971)was known for his distinctive trumpet-playing and vocal style. He often improvised jazz riffs using his voice rather than his instrument, “scatting” notes and melodies rather than singing actual words. Armstrong transformed traditional church songs like “When the Saints Go Marching In” into jazz melodies fit for brass bands. Nicknamed Satchmo, short for “satchel-mouth,” he helped popularize the solo performance in jazz music. His musical style influenced singers Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra.

Groovin' to Jazz 8-13

Grade Range: 3-8
Resource Type(s): Lessons & Activities
Date Posted: 6/10/2008

In this music activity, students will learn how to listen to and appreciate authentic jazz recordings by listening to sixteen recordings by jazz greats and reading brief introductions that discuss the relevance of the songs as well as how to listen to them.

Ella Fitzgerald Record

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Primary Source, Artifacts
Date Posted: 1/29/2009

Over the course of her 60-year career, Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) became known to fans and colleagues as "The First Lady of Song." Her rise to international fame as a jazz and popular singer coincided with the rise of an American entertainment industry that brought music to millions through concerts, sound recordings, film, radio, and television. In 1938, Fitzgerald came up with the idea for song called "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," basing her lyric on a 19th-century nursery rhyme. Her 1938 Decca recording of the song in time became a million-seller.

Use this Investigation Sheet to guide students through describing the object and analyzing its meaning.

History Explorer Podcast: The Sioux City Ghosts

Grade Range: 5-8
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media, Worksheets
Duration: 16 Minutes
Date Posted: 2/14/2010

In this episode of the History Explorer podcast series, listen as archivist Reuben Jackson discusses the Sioux City Ghosts, an African-American travelling baseball team and swing band from the 1930s. The teacher’s guide includes links to the podcast in two formats and related images.

History Explorer Podcast: Mary Lou Williams, Jazz Master

Grade Range: 5-8
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media, Worksheets
Duration: 13 Minutes
Date Posted: 12/31/2010

In this episode of the History Explorer podcast series, Ken Kimery, Executive Producer of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, discusses the career of jazz musician Mary Lou Williams and the value of studying jazz in American history. The teacher guide includes discussion questions and links to related resources.

History Explorer Podcast: The Jazz Oral History Project

Grade Range: 5-8
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media
Duration: 9 Minutes
Date Posted: 6/18/2012

In this episode of the History Explorer podcast series, Ken Kimery, executive director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, discusses the importance of the Jazz Oral History Project. Ken explains the history of the program and its importance, as well as gives some tips about how to conduct your own oral history projects.

Oral History Activity with Jazz Great John Levy

Grade Range: 6-12
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media, Worksheets, Lessons & Activities, Primary Source
Date Posted: 3/27/2013

In this lesson, students will learn about the Jim Crow era in American history through an oral history interview with jazz legend John Levy. The resource set includes photographs and newspaper clippings in addition to the oral history excerpts, a teacher guide, and a student worksheet.  This interview was collected as part of the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program, a partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

Jazz Oral Histories as Primary Sources

Grade Range: 6-12
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media, Worksheets, Primary Source, Lessons & Activities
Date Posted: 3/27/2013

Introduce students to using oral histories as primary sources with these interviews with jazz musicians recorded by the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities. The resource includes a guide for teachers and links to oral histories, and a student worksheet accompanies these materials.

Groovin' to Jazz 12-15

Grade Range: 6-10
Resource Type(s): Lessons & Activities
Date Posted: 6/10/2008

In this music activity, students will learn how to listen to and appreciate authentic jazz recordings by listening to fifteen recordings by jazz greats and reading brief introductions that discuss the relevance of the songs as well as how to listen to them.

History Explorer Podcast: Remembering John Levy

Grade Range: 6-12
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media, Worksheets
Duration: 11 Minutes
Date Posted: 4/11/2013

Though not as well-known as figures such as Duke Ellington or Ella Fitzgerald, John Levy made significant contributions to jazz music, both as a bassist and as the first black personal manager in jazz. In this episode of History Explorer, Sarah Coffee interviews Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra Director Ken Kimery about  Levy's story and legacy. Ken discusses how he uses John's oral history, available at smithsonianjazz.org, to teach about topics ranging from segregation to prohibition, to finding one's musical "voice." This resource set includes a teachers guide and student worksheet. 

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra

Author: Andrea Davis Pinkney
Reading Level: Late Elementary School, Early Elementary School
Genre: Biography
Awards: Caldecott, Coretta Scott King Award

A brief picture book on the career of this jazz musician and composer who, along with his orchestra, created music that was beyond category.

Once Upon a Time in Chicago: The Story of Benny Goodman

Author: Jonah Winter
Reading Level: Early Elementary School
Genre: Non Fiction, Biography

Tells the story of Benny Goodman growing up in Chicago, and how his family helped him fufill his dream to play the clarinet.

The House On Fire: The Story of the Blues

Author: Craig Awmiller
Reading Level: High School
Genre: Non Fiction

Traces the history of the blues from its African roots through the 90s, with a focus on key artists ranging from Louis Armstrong to Muddy...

The Sound that Jazz Makes

Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Reading Level: Early Elementary School, Late Elementary School
Genre: Non Fiction

An overview of the evolution of jazz and jazz styles told in poetry. Each page includes a four-line poem and full-page illustration.

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