Kindred Spirits Children’s Jazz Choir
Music has power for evil or for good.
These words from Dr. Howard Hanson, director of the Eastman School of Music, more than fifty-five years ago remain true today.
Research has demonstrated the power of music to affect basic moods, attitudes and values and has shown that it has even more influence on young people than adults. Research has confirmed that listening to uplifting music can have positive effects on adolescents physiological and biochemical state. Participating in it is even more dynamic.
Many inner-city children come from dysfunctional families. Their surroundings are very negative and most of the music bombarding them through the multi-million-dollar music industry is, too. This has a significant effect on the formation of their values and worldview.
To counteract these increasingly negative messages, the Kindred Spirits Foundation has begun Jazz Choirs introducing children to the uplifting and joyous songs from the Great American Songbook. With joyful exuberance they sing the songs of Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer – songs like Accentuate the Positive, Blue Skies, What a Wonderful World, and It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing. Director Anne Phillips has written exciting and imaginative arrangements specifically for the choirs and in performance professional jazz musicians accompany them.
Singing these great lyrics has also proven to be an effective tool in improving reading skills as the head of the Juanita Ward Summer Reading Institute wrote in the concert program:
“Adding jazz music into our literacy instruction is an effective and fun-filled way to become immersed in reading, excited about reading, and skilled at reading. Music is a great means of stimulating the mind and senses across broader pathways. It helps our children to:
- Learn new words and their meanings
- Explore new ways of expression in words, rhymes and rhythms when
- reading the text out loud
- Gain awareness of melody
- Practice choral reading
- Become active listeners
- Develop speaking skills through articulation and enunciation
- Develop self-confidence
- Appreciate the importance of teamwork
- Find the joy in new words and music
Through Anne Phillips Kindred Spirits Jazz Choir Program, our campers are exposed to as important part of America’s rich musical heritage and learn upbeat melodies, rhythms, counterparts, lyrics and phonics that will stay with them forever.”
The first Jazz Choir was formed in Washington DC for the Best Friends Program, a program for adolescent girls begun by Mrs. William J. Bennett. The program which has now spread to thirty other cities is designed to teach girls self-respect, make positive decisions and support one another in postponing sexual activity and rejecting drug and alcohol use. In a recent performance, over one hundred Best Friends girls from across the country sang with full orchestra on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for the opening celebration of the inauguration. As one of the girls said I can’t believe I’m here. I feel so privileged. The Best Friends Jazz Choir made this once in a lifetime opportunity possible.Other choirs have been begun in the New York metropolitan area with children from such organizations as the Boys and Girls Club and The Juanita Ward Summer Reading Institute.
Funding for the choirs has come from The Johnny Mercer Foundation, The New York Mercantile Exchange Charitable Trust, the Harbourton Foundation, The George Smedes Poyner Foundation, Richard Gilder Foundation, Tapper Charitable Trust, Coronet Funding and Rye Presbyterian Church.