Jazz Discovery Series

Educational Outreach Program by Karla Harris

The Jazz Discovery Series is an educational outreach program focused on jazz music. Designed to deliver a unique combination of professional jazz musicianship with hands-on grade school, middle school, high school and adult pedagogy, the interactive nature of this program is a rarity amongst many jazz education outreach offerings.

This outreach shares and preserves the heritage of jazz culture and promotes essential traits of jazz that go beyond strictly musical concepts – elements such as cooperation, creativity, collaboration, communication, camaraderie, trust and respect.

There is a well-established link between music education/music performance and students’ ability to develop creative thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as promoting self-reflection and confidence.

"Watching a live jazz performance is a lesson in leadership-listening and collaborating, improvising and improving, recognizing and reimagining. … Jazz can teach us about ourselves. It’s nothing short of enlightening."

- U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona

Programs for Children and Young Adults

  • Grade schools (K - 5th)
    45-minute participatory introduction to jazz. Includes a short performance with demonstration of basic elements of jazz styles, followed by interactive breakout sessions with the musicians to learn about the different instruments in the jazz combo. Wraps up with students performing with the musicians.
  • Middle schools (6th - 9th)
    120-minute program with significant hands-on interaction. For students currently involved in their music program and to generate interest in students not currently involved in music. Includes a more advanced performance, significant interaction time with the musicians, and the opportunity to perform with the musicians.
  • High schools (10th - 12th)
    120-minute masterclass for student ensembles/orchestras involved in a music program, including those considering studying music in college. Incorporates a performance demonstrating advanced techniques, discussions with the musicians where students can ask instrument-specific questions, hear about a career in music, and obtain feedback on their own proficiency.  Opportunity to perform with the musicians.

Masterclass option for advanced music students – general format:

  • Welcome, introductions to musicians
  • Brief history of jazz: origins/influences, evolution of styles, the Great American Songbook
  • Elements of jazz: jazz harmony and how it differs from other music, rhythm (swing, common Latin feels, odd meters), melodic and phrasing variations, improvisation and soloing.  Demonstrate of techniques
  • Jazz influences on other styles of music: soul, rock, funk, hip-hop, blues
  • Being a jazz listener: what to notice, what to listen/look for, jazz etiquette
  • Student participation: select a few standards students know and choose a few songs to workshop and perform with the band.  Student technique reviews, suggested improvements
  • Q&A to close out the program

Programs for Community

120-minute program of music combined with family-friendly discussions for people curious about jazz. An outreach performance where band members describe jazz history and its cultural impact, while demonstrating different styles of jazz and highlighting nuances of the genre.

"The students were so engaged and I could tell they were enjoying themselves. I have never seen such an interactive program like this for schools."

- Madeline Livingston,  South Fulton Institute Arts Outreach Director

Video Samples

Teaching Background

  • Young Audiences (St. Louis, MO) - During her college years, Karla was a member of the venerable Gateway Jazz Ensemble. As a vocalist with the group, she helped introduce jazz to children at schools throughout St. Louis city and county via Young Audiences, a national arts outreach program
  • Jazz Road (Atlanta, GA) awarded Karla a grant for a 2022 summer tour focusing on performances and an afternoon jazz camp for underserved communities in North Carolina and South Carolina
  • Kennesaw State University (Kennesaw, GA) brought Karla on board as an artist-in-residence in 2017 to establish and lead a vocal jazz component within the dynamic KSU Jazz Studies program
  • Karla is co-creator of a children’s music education curriculum, "The Land-of-Music." Published in the 1990s, it has been used in public, private and home-school settings across the United States
  • Private Voice and Performance Coaching

Education and Experience Background

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Communications from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, with certification to teach secondary-level Speech and Drama
  • Vocalist with 35+ years of experience as a professional musician, focusing on jazz since 2004 and performing throughout the U.S

Download a one-sheet summary of the Jazz Discovery Series here.