Introducing Your Child to Jazz

Recently, I’ve been listening to jazz a lot with my children. What can I say? It is like comfort food for me. I play it in the morning, around dinner time; it’s a Scott thing. Anyway, it got me thinking of an article I wrote a while back for Green Spot Blue (a literary parenting online magazine) about jazz and parenting.

In it, I recommend some records for the young listener and give some parental suggestions on how to listen to the music with the younglings.

Here is the beginning of the article:

As parents we all want the best for our kids, and our plans are filled with the best intentions.  Many times this relates to music and our desire for our kids to know more than just what is on the pop stations. Some parents may try to listen to classical more, but for me I have always chosen jazz. Jazz, above all other music genres, seems to me to sing of creativity, the thrill of thinking outside the box. Songs are filled with experimentations, expressions. You feel love more, you feel pain more. There is a story there that surpasses any you may hear in the lyrics of a country song.

The problem is that many times when we parents sit back and look at our own musical choices, we can’t help but feel guilty. Usually it is the same artists, the same albums; we return to the comfort of what we like the most, not realizing that our child is hearing the same thing again… and again… and again….

Well, for the parent that wants to introduce their child to America’s great original artform, might I recommend 7 classical jazz albums to share with the family. Consider this an opportunity to lose The Wiggles, this is an introduction to jazz.

I go on in the article to recommend work by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, Charles Mingus, and others. You can check out the article here.

I still stand by my anti-Wiggles statement.

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6 responses

  1. I think it is a great idea to expose children to jazz (and indeed other genres of music) from early on. My father has always been a huge jazz lover and I remember him listening to Art Van Damme and the like- music that i could not relate to- nor did I find accessible (it was Abba for me- all the way from when I was 4 years old..) Choosing pieces and artits that are relatable are they key in educationg anyone really about any sort of music. I still struggle with jazz… and wish I had been listening to it more growing up. I’m going to hit your suggestions… Miles Davis has always been a difficult one for me… Having said that, I love discovering a whole new genre…

    • Thanks a lot! I hope you like the suggestions. I have to admit the reference to ABBA made me laugh. Miles Davis is a hard nut to crack. There are periods in his music history I love (late 50’s-early 60’s) while others I find painful (anything he did in the 70’s).

  2. Great article! Charles Mingus is awesome.

    I never listened to jazz as a child, and tend to be a bit biased against it (but only because it was the hold music for the financial aid office in college, and I spent way too many hours on hold with them). My boyfriend likes jazz though, so I’ve been trying to give it another chance and discover artists that I like. I’ll have to check out some of the other artists you mentioned!

    • Jazz, for the adult listener, I find to be a little more intense. I mean, it’s not really background music per se (Coltrane demands attention, in a way); more like classical music because of that. I would recommend Mingus. James Carter is a contemporary saxophonist who is really good.

  3. Agreed on the anti-Wiggles statement. No need to treat our children as idiots, especially musically. They can handle a lot more (complex) music than many educators give them credit for. I like to sing Nina Simone to my twins (now 20 months) and play all sorts of songs all day long on my iPhone. They get used to sounds from all over the world and many they find catchy enough to dance to. African women singers for example, or Algerian rai. Plus, of course, Nina Simone. Of that I am shamelessly proud.

    • That is awesome and you should be proud, definitely (And who doesn’t love Nina Simone!? I have some on my iphone). To introduce my kids to different music styles and cultures I got some CDs by Putumayo, they have a great series for kids and music. I recommend you check some out.

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