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  • Writer's pictureJOHN OSLER'S UPBEAT Admin




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Every four years Americans have a chance to sit in front of their TVs and watch news of the presidential campaign, month after month after month on bigger and bigger screens. Ugh!

I grew up without television which left our family with a lot of time to sit and stare at each other. We seldom did. We listened to the news as dinner was prepared and then sat down for our meal and discussed what we heard.. I miss those times. After dinner we sat around the radio and listened to music. These were the best times. This is why I prefer to listen to music than to the cacophony of the candidates talking about themselves.

All the candidates could learn something from listening to more jazz and less of the advice from their handlers. What they would hear in their local jazz joint would be a group dedicated to making joyous sounds together. Together they have nothing better to do than to make the group sound the best that it can. Each artist listening to the other and making everyone better. This is productive democracy at work.


America’s music, jazz reflects the best principles of  our political system when it is working. Here are some children’s programs that have been developed to illustrate this truth.

arrives to "A Celebration of America" Gala funded by The Rockefeller Foundation held at the Kennedy Center on January 19, 2009 in Washington, DC.


Sandra Day O’Connor, a Republican and retired Supreme Court Justice, and Wynton Marsalis, an avowed Musician, have joined together to create a children’s program called Let Freedom Swing. The program informs the kids about the structure and purpose of our political institutions and how a jazz band relies on the same principles.

Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and jazz composer, trumpeter, and educator Wynton Marsalis  getting together is something that you would suspect in a functioning democracy and certainly in the jazz world. Their program asks students to think about  how do many voices, from different places and different backgrounds, become one? How do you strike a balance between the best interests of an individual  and the best interests of the group, in both jazz and democracy?

Children in the program are asked to see the push and pull between individual rights and, the “greater good” in both democratic society and jazz performance. Activities and discussion questions center on the system of checks and balances in the Constitution, the importance of listening, and the importance of staying  involved in society and music.

The Jazz & Democracy Project

This program uses jazz as a metaphor to bring American democracy to life, enrich the study of U.S. History in elementary, middle, and high school, and inspire youth to become active, positive contributors to their community.  Students explore the importance of Listening, Critical Thinking, Voice, Choice, Preparation, Participation, Cooperation, Peaceful Negotiation, and America’s Classical Music . . . Jazz!

Kabir Sehgal wrote a book and brought attention to the correlation between jazz and democracy. He believed jazz can help us recapture America s “rightful soul”.

He pointed out that: “Sometimes a jam session includes trading fours, where each member of the band takes four measures to solo. If someone forgets to play his four, there is a flagrant void of sound. If you play one measure extra, you’re not respecting the form.   In the 1950s, jazz musicians became the literal embodiment of American democracy. Through one of the largest ever funded cultural projects, premier jazz musicians traveled to places beyond the Iron Curtain, and throughout the Third World in an effort to promulgate ideals of democracy”.



This week the Dirty Dog Jazz Café is presenting one of Detroit’s best, Dwight Adams. Dwight is a powerful force , both musically and physically. He is a sure musician and always brings out the best in his band mates. Dwight is a sought out accompanist as well as being a band leader that attracts equals as accompanists. This week perhaps we should to put the TV remote in the drawer, get in the car and head over to the Dog to witness democracy in action. Feel free to do your own shouting and finger pointing after the band ends a tune.

John Osler



Dwight 21
Winter 06-07 Panasonic 054_edited-1



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