A Brooklyn Author Aims to Teach Jazz Fundamentals With A New Children's Book

Oct 18, 2019

Carolyn Sloan is the author of WELCOME TO JAZZ: A Swing-Along Celebration of America’s Music

‘WELCOME TO JAZZ: A Swing-Along Celebration of America’s Music’ is authored by educator Carolyn Sloan.  The story of three young cats that visit a jazz club in New Orleans.

“It’s a little bit of an inside joke since musicians are usually the cats but here, we have cats watching humans.  We sort of flipped it on its head there,” Sloan said.

The children’s book uses an interactive side panel of sounds to explain concepts in music.

“The idea behind the book is taking a kid to a concert and having them ask lots of questions,” Sloan said.  “One of the cats asks those questions as any child would.  Then we break down those concepts into beat, rhythm, melody, instrumentation, key characteristics of jazz like improvisation and soloing, and call and response.”

Sloan says ‘WELCOME TO JAZZ: A Swing-Along Celebration of America’s Music’ is based around techniques used by greats like Louis Armstrong.

“It’s really important that people know who he is because he really invented a lot of the concepts that we are familiar with in jazz like soloing and scatting,” Sloan said.  “If you listed to ‘West End Blues’ you can hear him scat.  It was one of the first times that people actually heard that.”

The author chose “When the Saints Go Marching In,” as the books reoccurring song.

“It’s a song that a lot of us are familiar with.  It’s also a song that’s a good example of early traditional jazz,” Sloan said.  “I really wanted to give them an example of something they might hear early on in New Orleans.  I thought it was the perfect song to start with.”

A music educator at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, Sloan says it’s a subject that’s lacking in classrooms around the country.

“Giving kids voice and giving voice to creative expression is really important.  Jazz is unique.  It’s our American music and part of our history and cultural heritage.  Music is a way to add to the conversation.  It teaches kids to listen.  If kids listen to the book, read the book and want to listen to jazz more, then I feel like I succeeded.”