Jazz for All Ages

Riffs & Raps® is a family of community-based programs designed to connect audiences from toddlers to seniors with the music and the musicians who make it. The programs all use an interactive approach to educate participants about an essential part of America’s cultural heritage, build the audiences of the future, and use the power of jazz to help broaden the horizons for at-risk young people.

With the strong support of partners and funders including the Boston Public Library Foundation, Music and Youth Initiative, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, the Clipper Ship Foundation, and the Boston Cultural Council, JazzBoston launched Riffs & Raps I in April 2008, Riffs & Raps II in April 2009, and Riffs & Raps III in December 2009. These programs are ongoing. We are also working with community activist Mel King to develop a new multigenerational program.

All three programs are delivered by Arni Cheatham and Bill Lowe, two master teachers/performers selected for their extensive experience developing jazz curricula and their inspirational skills. They continue to refine the programs with each new round.

Click here for information about sponsoring a Riffs & Raps program or bringing one of the programs to your neighborhood community center, library or school.

Riffs & Raps – Find Your Jazz

An innovative after-school program for teens in underserved communities, Riffs & Raps® — Find Your Jazz (Riffs & Raps I) uses jazz as a tool to introduce young people to the power of expression, build their confidence in themselves and their pride in their cultural heritage, and foster the development of the skills they need to succeed in work and life. Seven weeks of hands-on workshops lead to a closing performance that puts the kids up front with their teachers and other professional musicians. By performing their stories for an audience of parents and friends, they share their experience, and their pride, with the community. The program has been delivered at the Codman Square and Dudley branch libraries and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester

Even at 7 weeks, the program has a powerful impact. A Dorchester teenager whose family broke up during the second week never missed a session.

Personally, I love JazzBoston’s Riffs and Raps program…. For us it really highlights the difference between only having 30 minute music lessons in limited space and being able to fully engage our members in a multimedia learning environment. The teachers are fantastic. They are able to present their content in a way the is both fun and engaging to today’s youth…. Students who were tentative at first beamed at the opportunity to show everyone what they had learned.
David Bonnell, Vice President of Operations
Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester

Riffs & Raps — Jazz for the Very Young

An interactive introduction to the sounds and fun of jazz for children age 4 to 8, Riffs & Raps® II has played to audiences of 50 to 100 children and their chaperones and parents at the Central Library in Copley Square. Children are drawn from local schools, Head Start Centers, and neighborhood families.

The program typically begins with children joining the musicians on the stage to meet the Reed Family: Tyrone the Saxophone; Tyrone’s mother, Alice the Alto; his sister, Sally the Soprano; and his father, Barry the Baritone. Cheatham and Lowe introduce each instrument separately so the children can hear the differences in their tone, pitch, and character. With the help of straws, they demonstrate how the vibrating reed works. A few popular children’s tunes, starting with the easily recognized base melody, then continuing with improvised variations, conclude the program.

We welcome inquiries about this program from schools and parents in other neighborhoods in and around the city. For more information, click here.

Riffs & Raps — Jazzin’ the Generations

JazzBoston developed Riffs & Raps® — Jazzin’ the Generations at the request of the Boston Public Library, which was seeking a program focused on seniors but also designed to bridge the generation gap. Riffs & Raps III invites people of all ages to travel together on a live musical tour through time as the trio of Cheatham, Lowe, and a guest pianist take audiences from the roots of jazz in blues and spirituals through the Great American Songbook and right on to the sounds of jazz today — complete with a rap by Cheatham.

Interactive from start to finish, the program is designed to engage audiences as well as entertain them. Its leaders combine careful planning with highly developed improvisatory skills to adjust for the different demographics they encounter at each location. Audiences of all ages participate by harmonizing, clapping or tapping the beat, and playing “the poor man’s saxophone” – straws bent to demonstrate the function of the reed. Informal conversations with the musicians follow each performance.

Riffs & Raps III has toured all 26 branches neighborhood branches of the Boston Public Library system and traveled to the Cary Memorial Library in Lexington.