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March 2021

Notes from M&J


Spring is here and we’re so grateful for more sunny days and warmer weather. We hope you’re finding joy in the spring thaw, too! Thanks for joining us last month for group class, parent workshop, SAT prep, and more; we’ve got some exciting things coming up in April as well. Read on for details about our Spring Studio Event, a “tiny” concert, and of course more Music of COLOR.

Happy Spring!

Melia & Justin

Music of Color
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Perhaps America's most unique contribution to music, jazz was born in New Orleans in the early 20th century. It was both a fusion and transformation of the earlier styles of ragtime and blues (see our January and February newsletters), a dance music that featured syncopated and swung rhythms and improvisation at its core. In the later 20th century, jazz transformed into a more serious art form and object of study. This month we meet three early jazz pioneers.

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Jelly Roll Morton (1890–1941) was a jazz pianist, bandleader, and composer. Of Creole descent, Morton began playing ragtime in his hometown of New Orleans as the style was transitioning into jazz. He later worked in Chicago and New York City. Like W.C. Handy and the blues, Morton was one of the first to publish jazz compositions.​

This month on the playlist... listen to Morton's Black Bottom Stomp. Where does musical material repeat? What differences do you hear on each repetition?

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Louis Armstrong (1901–1971) was a jazz trumpeter, vocalist, bandleader and entertainer. Like Jelly Roll Morton, Armstrong was born in New Orleans and took in the city's musical heritage. His career took off in Chicago as a sideman for King Oliver. Thanks to his charisma as an entertainer and his creativity and virtuosity on the trumpet, Armstrong later embarked on a solo career and became one of jazz's first global personalities .

This month on the playlist... listen to Armstrong's collaboration with jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald in "Dream a Little Dream of Me."

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Duke Ellington (1899–1974) was a jazz pianist, bandleader, and composer. He wrote over 1,000 compositions in his career and developed a unique style of bandleading that highlighted the individuality of each band member to create a unique listening experience for audiences around the country.

This month on the playlist... listen to Ellington's Black and Tan Fantasy. Notice the various timbres from the band members featured throughout.

SOURCE: Crawford, Richard and Larry Hamberlin. An Introduction to America's Music, 2nd edition. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013.

And now, four activities to watch, read, listen, and do to make your month more musical!


Historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. says that "Jazz is America's genuine classical music." Learn more and see amazing historical photographs and film clips in this video about "The Birth of Jazz."


Listen to music by Morton, Armstrong, and Ellington on our Music of COLOR Spotify playlist, where you’ll find a growing list of music by Black artists from a variety of styles and periods in American history.

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What makes jazz unique? Learn more in this article from The Washington Post's KidsPost

Pictured: jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald

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With your parent's permission, explore this list of jazz artists at Kids Music Corner. Each entry contains interesting facts and recordings of the artist.

Studio Updates
Piano in the News


Check out this amazing Tiny Desk Concert with Kirk Franklin. Recorded for Black History Month, this performance celebrates his contribution to Gospel music.

Spring Break
Studo Event
Flowers for Sale



Spring Break

Our studio spring break is April 5 through 9; there will be NO regularly scheduled lessons that week. Enjoy the warm weather with your family!

Spring Studio Event: "How Pianos Work"

This Spring’s studio event will be a virtual tour of the piano! Jeff Hall, piano technician extraordinaire and salesperson at West Michigan Piano, will lead us through “How Pianos Work” by showing us the inner workings of acoustic pianos using lots of cool tools and visuals. Join us on Zoom at 11 AM on Saturday, April 10 to get an inside look (literally!) at the mechanics of the piano. The Zoom registration link will be sent via email. Feel free to invite family and friends to this virtual event, too!

Spring Recital

Our Spring Recital will take place on Saturday, April 24 at 11 AM on Facebook Live (@YellowDoorGR). Students will record their recital pieces during lessons or at home during the week of April 19. The recital’s theme is “Music of COLOR” and will feature works by African American composers and communities.

Practice Tip



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Do you ever have a difficult time keeping the beat or playing correct notes? Rather than looking at that specific problem measure, back up a little bit and look at the “bridge” between that section and the previous one. Often, transitions trip us up more than the notes and rhythms themselves! Building solid “bridges” between sections often fixes problems like magic. Try it out at home this month!

Student Spotlight


Congrats to our six “guinea pig” Music Makers for their participation in Student Achievement Testing (SAT)! SAT is a program that tests students in all areas of musicianship and is administered by our local chapter of Music Teachers National Association. We are so proud of all your hard work!

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