‘Teaching Jazz’ institute supported by NEH grant

Gerald L. Early, Ph.D., the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters and director of The Center for the Humanities, has received a $222,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) Division of Education Programs.

The grant will fund “Teaching Jazz as American Culture,” an NEH Summer Institute aimed primarily at public high-school teachers that will be held at the University in 2005.


Under the auspices of The Center for the Humanities, the institute will examine how interdisciplinary approaches to popular music, specifically jazz, can enrich a variety of subject matters; broaden understanding of American history and literature; and reveal new perspectives on race and gender in the United States.

“‘Teaching Jazz’ is intended to re-imagine how popular culture can be taught,” said Early, who also is a professor of African and Afro-American Studies and of English, both in Arts & Sciences.

“Most attempts to use popular culture in schools have been misguided or disingenuous. It is hoped that the summer institute will offer teachers new and engaging ways to teach popular music as a humanities subject.”

At the same time, he added, “It is also hoped that this endeavor will lead to new ways of teaching the humanities and new ways of seeing the humanities as cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary.”

One of only 14 NEH Summer Institutes for 2005, Teaching Jazz has also been designated part of “We the People,” an NEH initiative designed to explore significant events and themes in American history and culture. Instructors will include some of the nation’s leading scholars of jazz music and American culture, including the University’s Jeff Smith, Ph.D., director of the Film & Media Studies Program in Arts & Sciences.

The curriculum will approach jazz from social, cultural, political, technical and aesthetic perspectives. Participants will have numerous opportunities to attend live jazz concerts.

The NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers are designed to present the best available scholarship on important humanities issues and works taught in the nation’s schools. Participating teachers compare and synthesize perspectives offered by faculty, making connections between the institute content and classroom applications, with the aim of developing improved teaching materials for their classrooms.

Registration — limited to about 30 applicants — is open to high-school teachers from a variety of disciplines, including English, history, social studies, art and music; and to qualified nonteachers, such as high-school librarians, media specialists and museum staff. Further details will be announced in a forthcoming brochure with additional updates posted in future issues of The Center for the Humanities’ publications Belles Lettres and The Figure in the Carpet, both available online at cenhum.artsci.wustl.edu.

For more information, call 935-5576.