In the windows of a Target store on a busy street corner in downtown Portland is a display of art inspired by jazz. Scattered among classic album covers, the paintings are by students who learn about the music in a program developed by Joe Maita, the president of the PDX Jazz board of directors. You may know Maita as the prominent blogger Jerry Jazz Musician. He and other instructors in the Jazz In The Schools program familiarize youngsters with jazz by way of short lectures, discussions and listening sessions. They stimulate the kids to create paintings, drawings and sculptures that reflect what they hear. Many of the works by elementary and middle school students are remarkably advanced in the ways that they touch the spirit of the music. The pieces below are by students at the Rosa Parks Elementary School.
Maita was inspired to reach neighborhoods with underprivileged children, but the program extends to students of all socio-economic categories in schools across the city. Some of the paintings and sculpture
by high school pupils approach professional quality. Now that the program is becoming solidly established in Portland, Maita (pictured left) and his colleagues—all of them volunteers—are working to encourage other cities to follow suit. Such efforts have the potential to revive interest in America’s principal contribution to the world’s arts and culture.
With his marketing group and his work on the PDX Jazz Festival, Joe Maita’s blog is updated less frequently these days, but for jazz listeners it is a valuable source of information—always a good read. To visit it, click here.