Teaching Vocal Jazz Concepts in the Schulwerk-Inspired Elementary Music Classroom

May 1, 2019 / By: Sara E. Alswager

The purpose of this paper is to highlight commonalities that might exist between the Orff Schulwerk approach and the vocal jazz idiom as a means to share how both might function in the elementary music classroom. Given that many elementary music teachers may not be familiar with the tenets of vocal jazz, the paper begins by defining the historical context of vocal jazz education and the parameters of vocal jazz as it exists in PreK-collegiate music education. The paper then outlines stylistic classifications of the vocal jazz idiom, defines relevant terminology, and describes performance practice of vocal jazz ensembles. Next the paper explains how and where the concepts of vocal jazz education might be found in literature from the Orff Schulwerk canon. In addition, the opinions of experts who have implemented elemental music and vocal jazz ideas in their classrooms are summarized. To conclude, the paper summarizes the advice of vocal jazz experts and outlines a collection of resources for teachers that wish to utilize the Orff Schulwerk approach while effectively implementing a vocal jazz component to their elementary classroom and choral ensemble such as: considerations for elementary-level vocal jazz warm-ups and skill building; elementary vocal jazz repertoire considerations; rhythm section and instrumental accompaniment considerations for the elementary setting; reference lists of children’s literature with jazz themes, age-appropriate jazz standards, and applicable methods books for teaching vocal jazz that align with the Orff Schulwerk approach. It is hoped that information compiled in this paper might help music educators consider these ideas when developing their own vocal jazz classroom curricula in addition to selecting and arranging vocal jazz activities and repertoire for elementary students.