Jazz & Democracy Logo

The Jazz & Democracy Project® (J&D) is an interdisciplinary, music integrated program that utilises music appreciation and the power of metaphor to engage students in high order thinking skills about society and their place within it. J&D students are continually asked to evaluate, synthesise, and apply knowledge, to think elastically across domains that, at first, may seem dissimilar: music and the social sciences, particularly history, current events, government and culture. However, interviews with over 40 jazz musicians provide insight on a range of topics vital to students: leadership, social responsibility, the importance of practise, perseverance, and integrity, just to name a few.

At first blush, “jazz and democracy” may appear to have little to do with Australian schooling. However, J&D Founder, “Dr. Wes,” has tailored school presentations for over a decade in classrooms starting in Year 5 right through to uni. Therefore, J&D presentations can be adapted to address historical and current events, thematic content, even school mottos/ethics. Below please find an initial sample of topics. If any of them intrigue you, or if you’d like to propose something for your students, please contact us to arrange a meeting with Dr. Wes.

Dr. Wes opening "Ethical Explorations Day" at Rosebank College in Five Dock, a collaboration with Philosophy in Schools NSW.

Aussie units under development

Coranderrk and the Value of Voice

  • Goal: illustrate the importance of voice on the jazz bandstand and in an egalitarian society
  • Outcome: students will discuss/write about the upcoming Voice to Parliament referendum considering the story of Scottish Preacher, John Green, and his inclusion of First Australians in the Coranderrk Station (Victoria) governing council

Destructive vs. Productive Tension: German Missionaries in late 19th C. Arrernte Country vs. The “Washminster” System

  • Goal: illustrate the value of creative tension on the jazz band stand and how it mirrors a system of government with built-in productive tension (checks & balances) vs. social dynamics premised on dominance
  • Outcome: students will compare and contrast the culture clash when German missionaries settle in Arrernte Country, Central Australia, compared to the system of checks and balances foundational in both the Westminster Parliamentary System and United States Federal Government which, together, inform Australia’s governing structure

One-time, general audience workshop

Jazz as a Metaphor for Social Participation

  • 90-minute workshop best delivered in two 45-minute halves on either side of a break
  • Goal: inspire civic participation, highlight the importance of preparation, i.e. practise, and developing expertise
  • Outcome: students leave with a clear idea of how they might like to contribute to society + a roadmap toward that contribution

One-time, music/arts department workshops

“The Zone” Workshop (a.k.a. “Flow”)

  • Variable length, single class period presentation
  • Goal: introduce/explore the concept of “flow” via exclusive, master musician anecdotes
  • Outcome: students leave with a deeper understanding of “being in the zone” or “flow”, and how to more often find their way to this heightened state of focus, performance and productivity
  • NOTE: ideal for gifted & talented programs in any discipline

Jazz topics

  • Connecting to the African American musical tradition as a cultural outsider
  • The jazz aesthetic
  • Jazz and social movements

Other topic areas

  • Ethics
  • Social Justice
  • Effective Leadership
  • Effective Teamwork
  • Choosing a Prime Minister
  • School mottos, e.g., “Respect, Responsibility, Personal Best”

J&D is well suited for gifted & talented students who benefit from outside the square challenges. Because of the engaging, multi-sensory presentations and Dr. Wes’ teaching style, J&D has also been successful at engaging disaffected students. As one secondary teacher reflected, “For high achieving kids, J&D offers a different lens from which to interpret something they already understand well. For kids that struggle, J&D could be the missing link for connecting to complex curriculum.” Dr. Wes also lectures at the tertiary level, and provides teacher professional development.

Note: No musical experience is required to benefit from J&D presentations. J&D was built with the non-musician in mind. And yet, young artists benefit at an even deeper level.

J&D workshops in schools are perfect for music classes immediately following an end-of-term musical performance, or as a stimulating change of pace during/after a period of standardised testing.

J&D is suitable for classrooms, auditoriums, community and corporate spaces with audiences ranging in age from 10 years old through to adults.

J&D courses have ranged from 4 after school students to 315 students filling an auditorium.

J&D has funds to subsidise programming in disadvantaged schools where students come from socio-economically challenged environments. J&D is keen to locate schools where it may have a recurring presence year-on-year. So, please contact us with interest, especially if you don’t think you can afford it!