This February, young musicians from the Boys & Girls Club’s Notes for Notes program educated area junior high students about Black History Month with one of the most powerful teaching tools around: music. With a string of school performances, The Jazz Villains, a group of 12- to 16-year-old musicians who attend Notes for Notes, partnered with the S.B. Blues Society and performed a set of African-American spirituals, jazz, and blues standards alongside a presentation by S.B. Blues Society boardmember and S.B. High School teacher Eric Nichoson. They’re “telling the story of how one of America’s few original art forms, the blues, runs parallel with African-American history,” said Notes for Notes metro manager Kris Ehrman, with a set list spanning musical history, from the triangular trade to the civil rights movement.
The performances have been a huge success for the band, a sextet directed by program director David Rojas. With a PowerPoint presentation with its own live soundtrack and exciting music more than a century old, Erdman says playing music rather than distributing the usual books or iPads has become a powerful new way of communicating the history and importance of African-American culture. “It’s the right time for educators to look for new ways to positively impact youth as they develop into adults. Teens crave novelty, and having a live band of their peers echo their history class isn’t something that happens every day,” he said.
The Jazz Villains haven’t stopped their bluesy ways. The young firecrackers will be performing on Saturday, March 4, at SBCAST (513 Garden St.) for the S.B. Jazz Festival.