Exposing children to jazz through school music programs


It has long been documented that exposure to music at early ages can stimulate a child’s brain and aid in academic growth, but White County music teacher Brad Norris wants his students to be exposed to a variety of sounds, not just the music they make in class or that they hear on the radio.

“Exposure to different music genres has the power to enhance our enjoyment of music,” Norris said.  “It can increase our understanding of the different artistic styles throughout the musical genres, help us recognize innovation and creativity, and help us to understand and appreciate quality in music.”

Recently, Norris secured a $3,000 grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission, an organization that was created, in 1967, by Tennessee General Assembly and whose vision is to create ‘a Tennessee where the arts inspire, connect, and enhance everyday lives,’ for the purpose of bringing a Big Band to Cassville Elementary School.

“I would like for this to become an ‘every school’ thing in the future,” Norris said, adding that he had to choose just one school this year, and, as Cassville is the traveling music teacher’s home school, it made the most sense to start there. “I was able to get a Big Band through an organization out of Chattanooga called Doors Open Jazz to come and give our students a new musical experience.”

Doors Open Jazz, which was founded in 2018, is a non-profit organization that is committed to the empowerment of youth by providing musical education on a sliding scaled, based on what families can afford. While Doors Open Jazz primarily reaches the under-served youth in the greater Chattanooga area, the musicians are happy to provide musical experiences for children across the state.

“As most of us in the band have acquired music degrees and teach music, we love to see kids inspired by the music we are preforming,” Antoine Williamson, Executive Director of Doors Open Jazz and a musician in the Big Band, said. “Studies show [that] when a child at a young age learns a musical instrument, it boosts their math IQ, memory and language skills. And, yes, it feels good to be a part of that whole process.”

Norris hopes this is the just the first of many musical experiences he can provide for his students in coming years.        


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