Jazz in Education

Jazz has always been a big part of my life. I believe that jazz is important because it teaches creativity in a way that’s different from anything else. Jazz is a musical genre you can improvise on. Classical music, which is the genre schools teach, is only played one way: by playing the specific notes written on the page. I believe that this is why some students quit their instruments. They do not like the way classical music is played. Studies say the brain can’t learn as well when it is not happy or interested.  I am not saying classical music shouldn’t be taught. Classical music is very important because of its fundamentals, but just learning only classical music will not be sufficient. It won’t teach people to improvise. Improvising is where people think of what to play while playing. This is a skill I find important. This skill can also be applied in everyday activities, such as expressing ideas. People think of what to say next while talking. Learning jazz can help this skill. Therefore, schools should teach jazz in addition to classical music.

It is important for kids to learn to improvise. In some schools, teachers teach kids to compose music by writing note by note. This is good for creativity, but it still doesn’t teach kids to come up with ideas on the fly. Also, writing the music out is more time consuming than improvisation. When people write note by note, they often forget their ideas while writing the notes. Also, composing jazz is different from composing classical music. First, composing jazz takes less time than composing classical music. This is because jazz forces you to concentrate more on the chords. Chords take less time to write out. Chords are like the skeleton in a human’s body. It doesn’t directly influence the appearance of the person, but it lays out the shape of the person. With jazz, the chords influence your choice of notes and the shape of the piece, but the notes aren’t specified. So, when you compose jazz pieces, it makes you think of multiple possibilities of what the piece will sound like.  Different types of memorization is also important. While classical music forces you to memorize notes, jazz forces you to memorize chords. So, with jazz, you have to memorize the structure while improvising. This should be good practice for students.

Learning jazz benefits humans unlike any other type of music. Learning jazz teaches teamwork skills. People in jazz bands constantly give each other looks, or “cues” so that everyone knows when they start and end solos, as well as playing with everyone. Being able to use cues requires the whole band to be on the same page. There is not as much teamwork skills involved with classical music, since all the notes are fixed. All you have to do is to play along with everyone. This is why jazz develops students’ brains differently. Also, jazz expands mental abilities. According to William R. Klemm,  a player has to engage the brain in multiple ways that classical musicians do not. According to Psychology Today, when improvising, “players have to have a huge musical vocabulary and realize in milliseconds what new notes will fit” and that this is one of the most “mentally demanding things.” The author also says that this helps brain development in many ways. An overwhelming amount of studies say challenging the brain develops new neural networks in the brain. The author also says that learning to play jazz teaches “invaluable learning capacities for hand-eye coordination, the ability to memorize, discipline, patience, critical and creative thinking, high-speed intellectual engagement with the ideas of others, and self-actualization and confidence.” People playing and listening to jazz experience enormous amounts of mental stimulation, making the experience fun for them. Studies also suggest that learning jazz helps memory, intelligence, creativity, and that it relieves stress. After all, jazz started out as an emotional relief system for slaves. It is also the best type of music to listen to while studying or writing. According to liveforlivemusic, the brain releases chemicals to react accordingly. According to Kendall Deflin, the brain follows the influence of jazz and goes with the rhythmically improvisational patterns which pop and jerk at times, so the activity in the music increases hyperactive neural stimulation. This is saying that the unusual rhythms affects the brain in positive ways.

Additionally, jazz should also be taught in a history context. Jazz is a big part of African American history. It started as emotional relief for slaves. The styles of jazz change as the culture changes and new people come along. Also, the jazz gets influenced by many different cultures and genres to get to what it is today. It is also important to know how people reacted differently to jazz throughout time. Jazz is one of the few art forms that are uniquely American. Jazz plays a very big part in history. Jazz has always been a way of expressing emotion. Happier musicians would play more up beat fast music, while slaves would play the blues. As times change, the style and the music would change too. This is important for the students to learn about because it is related to the history of the people. The interdisciplinary approach has been proven to work. If kids learn to play jazz, and learn about the history of jazz, they would learn history while being able to relate to the music they are playing.

Schools should teach a wide variety of genres. I believe why people stop practicing their instruments is due to their lack of interest in the genre, not because they don’t understand music. If schools teach many genres, and give a chance to every student to try out different types of genres, students would have better chances to keep going with their instrument. Also, because experience in one genre can help students play other genres, learning multiple genres is beneficial for students, just like it is good for teachers to teach different types of writing. Therefore, jazz, in addition to classical music, should be taught in schools.



Klemm, William. “What Jazz Music Can Do for the Brain.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 27 Apr. 2014. Web. 30 June 2017.

Deflin, Kendall. “Why Jazz Is The Most Stimulating Genre of Music, According To Science.”L4LM. N.p., 23 Dec. 2016. Web. 30 June 2017.


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