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Montavilla Jazz Artist-in-Residence

MJF launches jazz education partnership at Vestal School

Something extraordinary happens when young people learn about jazz and its influence on American history and culture. Students at Vestal Elementary experienced how the sound and spirit of jazz are woven into the fabric of American life during six weeks with our Jazz Artist-in-Residence, Portland-based jazz saxophonist and educator, Mary-Sue Tobin.

This winter Tobin took Vestal students on an educational journey starting with the forced migration of African slaves. Over the weeks they also explored the mixing of European, African, and indigenous cultures that led to the birth of jazz, through the boom of popular music in America, up to the current day and the continuing influence of jazz on artists such as Cardi B and Bruno Mars.

Initiated by a 2018 Montavilla Schools Music Fund grant, the new residency launched in conjunction with two existing PDX Jazz education programs: Jazz in the Schools, which gives students the opportunity to learn about jazz and make art in response, and the Incredible Journey of Jazz, an interactive performance that teaches a history of jazz and its cultural significance.

Vestal is thrilled to have Montavilla Jazz Artist-in-Residence in our school! Jazz is an amazing tool for our students to learn about art and social justice!

Sabrina Flamoe

Principal, Vestal School

Program Outline

Jazz in the Schools (PDX Jazz) introduces students to jazz through interactive presentations and hands-on activities designed to demonstrate the influence and impact of jazz on American culture. Following the presentation, students create their own original art, interpreting the music and culture of jazz by utilizing their newfound understanding of the connection between the music and art (supplies provided by U.S. Bank).

Montavilla Jazz Artist-in-Residence, Mary-Sue Tobin guides students through six weeks of jazz appreciation with the assistance of Portland State University Senior Capstone students leading up to the 2019 PDX Jazz Festival.

The Incredible Journey of Jazz (PDX Jazz) is an interactive program for students of all ages that recounts the history of America’s indigenous musical art form. Vestal students will learn about jazz, its beginnings, development, and current role in global culture. The narrated program features a live jazz band who demonstrate characterizations of historical figures and musical illustrations from different eras and styles. Musical elements explored include rhythm, melody, call-and-response, and counterpoint. Additionally, students learn about the importance of African and immigrant cultures on American life, slavery, civil rights, and the interweaving of music and cultures around the world.

Meet Montavilla’s Jazz Artist-in-Residence

Mary-Sue Tobin has shared the stage with international jazz and R&B stars such as Dave Douglas, The Temptations, James Moody, and Esperanza Spalding. She has performed with the Oregon Symphony Pops (Pointer Sisters, Johnny Mathis) and played numerous local festivals including PDX Jazz, Mount Hood Jazz, Montavilla Jazz, and Cathedral Park Jazz Festival.

Mary-Sue brings her passion for music and 20 years of experience to her work as music educator. She teaches all levels, from beginners to professionals, offering her knowledge, inspiration, and encouragement to help students achieve their goals. In addition to her performance and education activities, Mary-Sue serves on the PDX Jazz programming committee.

PDX Jazz is grateful to Montavilla Jazz for the invitation to collaborate on this education initiative. We are thrilled to assist in bringing the magic of jazz and a deeper understanding of its cultural significance to the Vestal community!

Kim Harrison

Director of Education, PDX Jazz

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