A Great Day in Harlem: 55 Years Later

When freelance photographer Art Kane rounded up 57 of the world’s greatest jazz musicians on a hot summer morning at 10 am, Aug. 12, 1958, he accomplished the impossible. For jazz musicians to even get up at this ungodly hour after all-night gigs was a minor miracle. Like herding baby kittens, Kane patiently struggled to get the chatty, rambling group organized on the steps of a Harlem brownstone at 17 E. 126th St. off 5th Avenue, so he could proceed with his first professional assignment for Esquire: to shoot what became the most historic jazz photo of all time. (I love the gathering of curious neighborhood kids in the photo, who were undoubtedly amused by this event. And imagine this feat of word-of-mouth organization, all without benefit of cell phones!)

Here’s Kane’s iconic photo as a large poster (35″ x 24″).
The poster identifies who’s who, so see how many you can recognize.
a Great Day in Harlem

A Great Day in Harlem DVD

A Great Day in Harlem DVD
In 1994 Jean Bach produced an award-winning documentary, based on home movies of the historic day. Narrated by Quincy Jones, the film tells the story behind the legendary photograph, with bios,  rare, archival pics and footage of live performances and interviews with 30 jazz greats. You can now navigate to any image in the photo to see the musician’s name, and click on the name to bring up a selection of related scenes in the documentary (including outtakes). 1995 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary, and winner of numerous film festivals. 60 min. DVD.
Film producer Jean Bach died in May, 2013. At age 94, she was still enjoying her nights out on the town, listening to jazz.

A GREAT DAY IN HARLEM:  55 years later

Sadly, only 4 of the musicians in the Great Day photo are still alive today. But happily, they are still making great jazz and continue to grow.
Their attitudes about life and music are worth emulating. To quote one of them,
“My health, both mental and physical, is good, and I intend to pursue new and different approaches to my music and my career. I will search for hidden talents that I didn’t know I had and do my best to cultivate them.  I am grateful for each day, and I will try to use each day as a stepping stone to greater achievements.” – Horace Silver
Sonny Rollins age 16
“Sonny” Rollins (born 1930), tenor sax
Horace Silver
Horace Silver (born 1928), jazz pianist and composer
Marian McPartland
Marian McPartland (born 1918), jazz pianist and host of Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, NPR’s longest running jazz program
Benny Golson
Benny Golson (born 1929), tenor sax

HOW TO LISTEN TO MUSIC: 6 Teaching Tips

 1. LISTEN BLINDLY. Ask students to listen closely to a musical selection with their eyes open; then listen to the same selection with their eyes closed. Discover and discuss the differences. (See the corollary to this activity in #6 below) 2. LISTENING TEAMS. Divide the class into listening teams. Ask each group to focus on a… Continue Reading

Alfonso X (“el Sabio”): The Wise King Who Loved Music – Nov. 23

Born: Nov. 23, 1221, Toledo, Spain Died: April 4, 1284, Seville, Spain Alfonso X, King of Castille, Leon, and Galicia, was appropriately nicknamed “El Sabio” (the Wise). His 32-year reign in Spain was a time of artistic and intellectual advances, in an atmosphere of religious tolerance and cooperation. Here are a four reasons why this… Continue Reading

Jean-Baptiste Lully – Nov. 28

Born Nov. 28, 1632 in Florence, Italy Died March 22, 1687 in Paris, France Italian Composer Conquers (and scandalizes) Versailles Italian-born miller’s son of limited education and musical training, Lully rose to become master of French Baroque music and the favorite court composer of King Louis XIV. He endeared himself to the French public as… Continue Reading

Paul Dukas – Oct. 1

Born Oct. 1, 1865 in Paris, France Died May 17, 1935 in Paris, France After attending the Paris Conservatory, Paul Dukas became a music critic and orchestrator. As a composer, he was a perfectionist and destroyed much more than he ever published. Among his few surviving works, the most famous  was The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1897),… Continue Reading

Opera at the Movies: Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD 2012-13 Season

2012–13 Live in HD Schedule Enjoy another spectacular season of the Metropolitan Opera in movie theaters around the world. Find a movie theater near you. Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore–New Production October 13, 2012, 12:55 pm ET U.S. Encore: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 6:30 pm local time Canada Encores: Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm local time Monday, November… Continue Reading

HOW TO LISTEN TO MUSIC: 8 Practical Tips

1. Listen blindly. Listen to a work not knowing who wrote it, or the title of it, or the style and when it was written. Just you and the physical music, with no preconceptions or artificial mental expectations or without knowing anything about it’s origins or classifications. 2. Listen bodily. Listen with your gut, your… Continue Reading

Do we really need the Arts?

To create, one must first imagine; to imagine, one must first learn to see, to listen, to feel, to perceive. Music and the arts are the cornerstone of education in the broadest sense. They open our eyes and ears, develop and transform us personally, connect us emotionally with others, and offer a universal bridge of… Continue Reading

Metropolitan Opera at the Movies, 2011-12 Season

Take advantage of “front row” seats at the Met’s new 2011-12 HD Live opera season, and watch opening day performances (or encore evening showings) at local movie theaters throughout the world. Although nothing beats a live performance at the Met in Lincoln Center, these simulcast live performances on screen are the next best thing, and… Continue Reading

SING ME A STORY: The Musical Approach to Children’s Literature

Jill and Michael Gallina share news of their exciting new musical that highlights the importance of literature and reading: If you are interested in a musical that takes place entirely on risers and integrates music and children’s literature into one easy-to-produce package, we hope you’ll consider our latest “Rise and Shine” musical SING ME A… Continue Reading

Olivier Messiaen – Dec. 10

“I give bird-songs to those who dwell in cities and have never heard them. . .and paint colors for those who see none.” —Messiaen. He used birdsongs and colors as no musician ever had before, bringing beauty and hope even to fellow prisoners in a German POW camp. Continue Reading

Christmas in the Trenches: The “Silent Night” Truce

After months of deadly trench warfare, on Dec. 24, 1914, German and British soldiers in Belgium suddenly ceased hostilities and, through the singing of carols, celebrated Christmas together. This film documents their spontaneous musical truce with eyewitness reports, proving that "people who make music together cannot be enemies, at least not while the music lasts"… Continue Reading

Domenico Scarlatti – Oct. 26

  Painting by Velasquez Born Oct. 26, 1685 in Naples, Italy Died July 23, 1757 in Madrid, Spain Domenico Scarlatti was born into an illustrious musical family, auspiciously in the same year as two other great Baroque composers,  J. S. Bach and Handel. He received early training from his father Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725), chapel organist… Continue Reading

George Gershwin – Sept. 26

True music must repeat the thought and inspirations of the people and the time. My people are Americans and my time is today.      – George Gershwin Born Sept. 26, 1898 in Brooklyn, New York Died July 11, 1937 in Hollywood, California George Gershwin, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, is the quintessential American composer.… Continue Reading

Dmitri Shostakovich – Sept. 25

Born Sept. 25, 1906 in St. Petersburg, Russia Died Aug. 9, 1975 in Moscow, Russia A product of the Bolshevik Revolution, Shostakovich was the most famous of all  Soviet composers. He led a politically and personally troubled life, yet produced some of the century’s most celebrated and frequently performed works even today . Born into… Continue Reading

Autumn from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) wrote numerous concertos, many of them for the young ladies who resided in the Venetian orphanage where Vivaldi was employed for most of his working career. (Many of these “orphans” were daughters of affluent  noblemen and their mistresses, and they lived in very comfortable circumstances and were given excellent musical training.)  Some… Continue Reading

Jimmy Reed – Sept. 6

Born September 6, 1925 in Dunleith, Mississippi Died August 29, 1976 in Oakland, California Mathis James “Jimmy” Reed, musician and songwriter popular during the 1950’s and ‘60’s, was noted for his electric blues guitar sound, lowdown harmonica, and slack-voiced, twangy singing style (which was his charm and trademark sound which many musicians imitated). He composed… Continue Reading

John Cage – Sept. 5

Born Sept. 5, 1912 in Los Angeles, California Died Aug. 11, 1992 in Manhattan, New York “There are two things that don’t have to mean anything; one is music, and the other is laughter.” – John Cage, paraphrasing Immanuel Kant. (Cage agreed with Kant that music and laughter don’t have to mean anything in order… Continue Reading

Darius Milhaud – Sept. 4

Born Sept. 4, 1892 in Aix-en-Provence, France Died June 22, 1974 in Geneva, Switzerland   “Don’t be afraid of writing something people can remember and whistle. Don’t ever feel discomfited by a melody".  Milhaud to his student Burt Bacharach Milhaud was a student of Charles Widor, Vincent d’Indy, and Paul Dukas.  A member of Les… Continue Reading

Opera for Kids: Free Resources from the Met

 Educator Guides to the Operas Plan an opera study unit for your students based on one of the operas in the 2010-11 Metropolitan Opera season, climaxing with a Night at the Opera in a local movie theater or at your school. The Met Live in HD series offers free opera-specific educational guides you can use… Continue Reading

Catch the Met’s 2010-11 Operas in Movie Theaters

The fifth season of the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series is coming to a movie theater near you! Enjoy front row seats at these live opening night productions. It is so easy to feel more engaged with opera on a large screen, where you can see everything “up close and personal.”  Feel the pre-performance… Continue Reading