Jazz @ Lincoln Center

Our EDL Leadership 424 class participated in a workshop held at the Jazz at Lincoln Center in Manhattan earlier this week. Creativity and Imagination in Leadership Seminar was hosted by the Maxine Greene Center for Aesthetic Education and Social Imagination and Jazz @ Lincoln Center. The Jazz @ Lincoln Center was started in 1987 with the mission of spreading jazz music and acts kind of like a Jazz Hall of Fame, but with more of a promotional and teaching aspect. They have their own orchestra led by Jazz great Wynton Marsalis. Our workshop was held in one of the studio classrooms and led by Dr. Jon Drescher from Lehigh’s Center for Developing Urban Educational Leaders. 

Dr. Jon Drescher

The purpose of the experience was to “expand our awareness of the importance of multiple perspectives, collaboration, risk-taking, and reflective practices. We arrived and in small groups, arranged a traditional American song to fit our experience of America. Since we had several Latin Americans in our group, we put a Spanish language and Latin American culture spin on the Elvis Presley classic, Blue Suede Shoes. Other groups included hip-hop (urban principals), spoken word, etc.

Next we listened to the band, The Amigos (video above). They teach US History through music and music through US History and do a lot of performances in schools. It was amazing their talent, enthusiasm, and repertoire. They performed many kinds of American music, for example Zydeco, Blue Grass, Negro Spiritual, Slide Piano, etc. I learned  much and enjoyed the music. A brilliant idea! They will be going on an overseas tour next month courtesy of the US State Department as an ambassador and teacher of American culture. They will be fine representatives. As a non musician, I appreciated and was inspired by the musicians, especially their tie in with US history and teaching history through music and vice versa. I was totally engaged throughout the concert, and I am not a big music fan. The background behind each song hooked me into what they were doing and I gained a deeper level of understanding of America.

I wish we would have talked a bit more to the band although they did hit upon some of their work together. This excerpt from an article from Warwick Business School Researcher Deniz Ucbasaran featured in The Guardian gets to the main point.

build creative tension and give individuals their heads” while working within the framework of a collective. They have to harness the “disparate egos of highly talented people” and somehow keep them working towards the same goal. “To the uninitiated, jazz seems like chaos, whereas the reality is that it’s very ordered,” she says. “Underpinning the structure is a long tradition of education and practice.

Our group at the Lincoln Center

What did I take away from the workshop? I did understand the concepts of improvisation, creative conflict, etc. and the music group reinforced this, but my big learning was the power of the fine arts to inspire and teach organizations. What a great way to focus and build team work than through music, theatre, or visual arts. Not only does it put The Arts (IB proper noun) in the center of everyone’s focus, but it can bring together diverse groups. This is also a neat way of doing Professional Development and truly differentiating for those people who are musically oriented. What a great way to engage people. This would also work great with students and parents.

I would love to do this with our faculty, students, and parents, and teach Serbian culture and history through music and vice versa. My vision would be to have a traditional Serbian folk band and troupe of dancers come in and play songs and give mini-lectures about the instruments and meanings/origins of the songs. They could also talk about the costumes and participants in the workshop would learn the basic steps of a Kolo dance and maybe how to play some simple melodies on the gusle, or accordion.

As a step further, I do want to read Max Depree’s book, Leadership Jazz and see how more applications to leadership can be found reflecting on this experience.

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