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Northeastern University’s Outreach Program Uses Music to Engage Kids

The John Coltrane Memorial Concert Educational Outreach Program Has Reached More Than 10,000 Students Over the Past 14 Years

The John Coltrane Memorial Concert Educational Outreach Program (JCMCEOP) uses music as the context to initiate a unique exchange between generations of students, teachers and musicians.

Under the leadership of Dr. Leonard Brown and Dr. Emmett Price of Northeastern University’s Departments of African American Studies and Music, the JCMCEOP collaborates with eight Boston and Cambridge inner-city schools to bring live performances of African-American creative improvisational music to predominantly minority student populations.

Brown said music is an integral, though often forgotten piece of a child’s education. He believes the outreach program can spur teachers to use music to develop innovative ways of teaching math, geography and even history.

“Music is now secondary,” Brown said. “But with proper exposure to live music, we help children develop to their full capacities.”

Indeed, the program’s ultimate goal is to expose students to qualities such as pursuance, focus, positive self-image and the willingness to learn, and has reached more than 10,000 students since its inception in 1992.

Using the John Coltrane Memorial Concert (JCMC) as its point of departure, the outreach program brings experienced professional jazz musician/educators into classrooms to engage students in performance lectures and introduce them to the music and underlying artistry of jazz legend John Coltrane.

During the sessions, students typically break into scat choirs, sing along to renditions of Coltrane songs and gain exposure to musical instruments. The feedback after performances, which typically last 75-90 minutes, includes drawings from elementary school students praising the musicians, Brown and Price; thank you letters from high school students and letters of gratitude from parents.

“That’s life-changing stuff right there,” Price said. “That confirms the passion that we already have for these young kids and it confirms we are heading in the right direction.”

This year, the JCMC, the world’s oldest annual performance tribute to the legend that is Coltrane, celebrates its 30th anniversary. For the 22nd consecutive year, it will be held at Northeastern on September 21-22. 25 students and chaperones from each of the eight participating schools are provided free admission to the concert on Sept. 21.

“With all the attention toward the arts being removed from the school curriculum,” Price said, “this is an opportunity for Northeastern, a university that is interested in the urban mission, to help be part of the solution.

“The outreach program is a resource and a solution to the fact that young people need to be introduced to music,” Price said. “We hope we can start a trend that can make children a priority academically and creatively.”

For more information about the 30th anniversary of the John Coltrane Memorial Concert and the JCMCEOP, please visit www.jcmc.neu.edu or contact Jason Kornwitz at 617-373-5471 or j.kornwitz@neu.edu.

About Northeastern

Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is a private research university located in the heart of Boston. Northeastern is a leader in interdisciplinary research, urban engagement, and the integration of classroom learning with real-world experience. The university’s distinctive cooperative education program, where students alternate semesters of full-time study with semesters of paid work in fields relevant to their professional interests and major, is one of the largest and most innovative in the world. The University offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs leading to degrees through the doctorate in six undergraduate colleges, eight graduate schools, and two part-time divisions. For more information, please visit www.northeastern.edu.