Jazz is recognized around the world for its rich cultural heritage rooted in the African-American experience. Since its inception in the early 20th century, jazz has contributed to and been a reflection of American culture and is widely considered to be the only truly original American art form. Yet, most Americans graduate from high school with little knowledge of the history or importance of jazz. In order to provide an ongoing education about jazz for our nation's students, the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz has developed Jazz in America, the Internet-based jazz curriculum for social studies, American history, and music classes in the United States and beyond. This is the first jazz/social studies curriculum using current Internet technology offered free of charge on an international national basis.

Along with training and providing opportunities for the next generation of jazz artists through the world renowned Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance at UCLA in Los Angeles and annual International Jazz Competition in Washington D.C., the Hancock Institute is committed to educating all American youth about America's indigenous art form, developing jazz audiences for the future and enriching lives in the process. The mission of Jazz in America is to incorporate the teaching and learning of jazz history into every public elementary, middle, and high school social studies and American history class in the country.

The online curricula for each of the three grade levels include eight 50-minute class lessons that have been designed to be taught as an integral component of social studies courses. Located on the Web at, each set of the age-appropriate lesson plans presents a historical overview, examines characteristics of various jazz styles, and highlights contributions of important performers and composers. Most importantly, they underscore the social, economic, and political contexts within which jazz evolved, providing an additional and engaging modality for the study of American History. Each lesson highlights interdisciplinary connections among content areas, promoting interdisciplinary instruction and stimulating further communication among educators, students, parents, and the public.

In addition to helping create a greater understanding of and appreciation for jazz and its contribution to and reflection of American culture, Jazz in America also provides insight into such intangibles as teamwork, freedom with responsibility, unity with ethnic diversity, the correlation of hard work and goal accomplishment, and the American spirit. The study of jazz also helps students develop a better understanding of and respect for this country's diverse cultural heritage. And, perhaps, there is no better example of democracy than a jazz ensemble -- individual freedom but with responsibility to the group.

Of particular importance, the curricula are aligned with the National Standards in the areas of American History, Social Science, and the Arts; all relevant standards are specified at the beginning of each lesson plan. Teachers have the autonomy to teach the material, issue quizzes, and grade their students as they see fit; they are also encouraged to evaluate the materials, providing their comments and suggestions to the Hancock Institute for continual upgrades and revisions.

The website includes:

  • a complete teacher's manual for each grade
  • individual step-by-step lesson plans with all pertinent content
  • easily downloadable student handouts
  • related American history and social studies essays
  • complete testbanks/assessments featuring multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, true-false, matching, and essay questions
  • audio snippets of historically significant jazz recordings
  • important jazz videos, photographs, and other visual images

The site also features a complete jazz resource library including:

  • a glossary of jazz terms and common jargon
  • a discography, bibliography, videography, and jazzoetry listing
  • jazz style sheets
  • a bio and selected recording for over 300 jazz musicians
  • a jazz timeline
  • elements of jazz audio files
  • a jazz education component including information on virtually every college and university jazz program in the US and Canada
  • links to other jazz and social studies educational websites

The Jazz in America writing team was composed of some of the top jazz and social studies pedagogues/authors in the country. Led by Dr. JB Dyas, the Hancock Institute's Vice President for Education and Curriculum Development, the committee included Dr. David Baker, Distinguished Professor of Music at Indiana University, Conductor of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, and Past President of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE); Dr. Willie Hill, Director of the Fine Arts Center at the University of Massachusetts and Past President of the National Association for Music Education (MENC); Dr. Gary B. Nash, Professor of History at the University of California Los Angeles and Director of the National Center for History in the Schools; David Vigilante, Associate Director of the National Center for History in the Schools and former Coordinator for the History-Social Studies for San Diego County; Dr. Richard Olivas, Professor of History at West Los Angeles City College; Howard Mandel, author, jazz journalist, and President of the Jazz Journalists Association; Marcia Dunscomb, author and specialist in early childhood jazz education; Willard Jenkins, BET on Jazz producer and jazz oral historian; Bob Blumenthal, jazz critic and consultant for Marsalis Music; and Phil Coady, President of Microgroove, the premier software and web site company specializing in music education technology. Other consultants have included Herbie Hancock and Dan Seeff, the Hancock Institute's Chairman and West Coast Director, respectively. Tom Carter, President of the Institute, serves as Executive Director.

The mission of the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz is to offer public school-based jazz education programs for young people around the globe, helping students develop imaginative thinking, creativity, curiosity, a positive self image, and a respect for their own and others' cultural heritage.

the thelonious monk institute of jazz
home overview lesson plans jazz resources what's new jazz in america