A typical school day was transformed into an impromptu jam session when a local musician and his friends took center stage. Students were tapping their feet and singing along as familiar tunes were jazzed up by the visiting artists. The program took place at Ann MacArthur Primary School and Locust Valley Intermediate School.

The assembly, sponsored by the Locust Valley Parents’ Council, introduced students in kindergarten through fifth grade to jazz and to the various instruments used by the performers. Locust Valley resident Bob Merrill played the trumpet and other band members played the clarinet, banjo, tuba and trombone. Merrill and his partners explained the history of jazz, taught the students about each instrument and demonstrated how jazz is impromptu. The band played the traditional “Happy Birthday” to a student at LVI and then played the same song as a jazz piece. Merrill said the musicians felt the music and kept the real tune in their heads as they improvised on the original notes.

While the band performed at each of the schools, the LVI performance included student participation. Four members of the LVI student band joined the professionals on stage, playing their own instruments. The professionals helped them warm up, played along with them, and then had a jam session where they encouraged the young musicians to play freestyle. 

Parents’ Council member Lisa Mullarkey organized the program with the goal of introducing children to a new artistic medium and to the instruments they will have the opportunity to play. “Some of these students will soon be asked to choose an instrument to play, and this will help them to decide what excites them,” she explained.