Junior jazz–a retroactive narrative inquiry


The purpose of the study was to tell the story of Grief Point Junior Jazz, which combined singers and instrumentalists in an elementary school vocal jazz ensemble led by two music educators working in collaboration. An initial review of the literature confirmed jazz as a valid medium for teaching musical concepts, but indicated that resources for teaching vocal jazz at the elementary level are sparse. Whereas such resources are readily available for concert band and choral instruction, as well as instrumental and vocal jazz, materials appropriate for students in elementary vocal jazz are difficult to find. Having explored first action research and then curriculum development as potential research models, narrative inquiry was eventually determined to be best-suited for representing the richness and complexity of the project through its consideration of context, its incorporation of individual voices, and ultimately its portrayal of the human side of the equation. The researchers adopted a retroactive approach in order to reflect upon and address some of the time constraints caused by events during the research year. Data was collected in a variety of forms. Beginning with repertoire and programs, photos and recordings, and other physical objects, field texts were generated by talking and writing about these “artifacts.” Students were surveyed and two interviews conducted. Analysis of the data included averaging the ratings and rankings from the questionnaires, reading the interviews looking for themes, and reflecting on the field texts. The metaphor of diamond cutting was applied to the narrative. Additionally, a resource appendix of repertoire performed by Junior Jazz containing sample arrangements and student handouts written specifically for the group is attached. Based on the study, the authors arrived at six conclusions. First, Grief Point Junior Jazz is part of an already rich musical heritage, carrying on the legacy of music making in Powell River. Second, the social aspect of making music in the ensemble was considered by the elementary-aged student participants as important as the music itself. Third, different paradigms determine how educational and satisfying music festivals are when it comes to vocal jazz. Fourth, as good quality repertoire is one of the most important building blocks in teaching music, the music educator must have a set of criteria to aid in the selecting of pieces; further a director must be prepared to adapt and arrange selections (examples included) to address the needs of singers and players alike in an ensemble such as Junior Jazz. Fifth, the importance of professional development for music educators cannot be overemphasized. Finally, collaboration is an essential component in teaching a vocal jazz group with instrumentalists like Junior Jazz.



vocal jazz, elementary school, young singers combined with instrumentalists, music education, curriculum resources, selecting and adapting repertoire, sample arrangements, narrative inquiry, artifacts, collaboration