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Jazz Educational Talks

In addition to the talks described below, Michael Arnowitt also offers two other presentations, one about the great pianist Horace Silver, and one about the drummer Art Blakey and his important group the Jazz Messengers. These talks are best given with one of Michael Arnowitt’s jazz combos to play details of the music live, but Michael can also present any of these lecture-demonstrations by himself with the aid of recordings and a piano or keyboard.

Underneath the descriptions of these talks are some testimonials from past sponsors of Michael Arnowitt’s educational presentations.

For more information on Michael Arnowitt’s jazz performance programs, please click here.


Descriptions of Talks

The Artistry of Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Arnowitt’s favorite jazz vocalist, is profiled in this talk featuring classic recordings Ella made from her debut on the music scene in the 1930’s to her prime in the 1950’s and 60’s. One of the most talented singers of all time, Ella Fitzgerald presented a warm, rich tone on romantic slow ballads, while up-tempo numbers inspired her to daredevil leaps and an exciting, almost athletic virtuosity. Her creativity with “scat” singing produced melodic lines as inventive as the top horn players of her day, while her approach to “swing” rhythm is universally acknowledged as the model for that indispensible jazz element. Michael Arnowitt takes a detailed look at her superlative recordings of The Midnight Sun, You’re My Thrill, Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea, Something’s Gotta Give, Mr. Paganini., and Lady Be Good.

The Evolution of Jazz, Part 1: 1900-1950
The Evolution of Jazz, Part II: 1950-2000

From its origins as an outgrowth of ragtime and blues to the present day, jazz has enchanted listeners of all ages around the world. Michael Arnowitt will explore the fine points of selected great jazz performances of the past by musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, and some of the most creative musicians of recent decades. In addition to listening to jazz recordings, Michael Arnowitt will also perform improvisations on some of the 20th century's best jazz tunes.

Examples selected for these two talks:

Part 1: up to 1950 Part 2: 1950 to the present
Scott Joplin - Maple Leaf Rag Charles Mingus - Better Git It In Your Soul
King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band - Chimes Blues Miles Davis - Solea
Louis Armstrong & Oscar Peterson - Moon Song John Coltrane - opening of A Love Supreme
Ella Fitzgerald - Mr. Paganini Ornette Coleman Quartet - Civilization Day
Ma Rainey and Her Georgia Band - Stormy Sea Blues Albert Ayler - Ghosts; Universal Indians
Louis Armstrong - West End Blues Herbie Hancock - Maiden Voyage
Cole Porter - I Concentrate On You John McLaughlin - Song For My Mother;
Glenn Miller Orchestra - Sliphorn Jive     Follow Your Heart
Duke Ellington Orchestra - Mood Indigo Weather Report with Jaco Pastorius - Havona
Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli - Lady Be Good Bobby McFerrin - medley: Donna Lee -
Art Tatum Trio - I Know That You Know     Big Top - We’re In The Money
Billie Holiday - All Of Me Peter Apfelbaum - The Ankh
Charlie Parker - KoKo Billy Childs - Lover Man
Dizzy Gillespie - Manteca
Bud Powell - Crazeology


Testimonials from past sponsors of Michael Arnowitt’s Educational Talks

“You set a wonderful tone that combined humor and accessibility with joy and deep appreciation for the work you were explicating. Our students were excited about their ability to understand and participate in the music. We all enjoyed the experience.”
     – Community College of Vermont
“The four-part series of lectures and performances by pianist Michael Arnowitt is one of the most delightful events ever sponsored by the Chandler Cultural Foundation ... Mr. Arnowitt engagingly sketches autobiographical material about the composers, placing them in historical perspective and recounting amusing and telling anecdotes ...
     He offers insightful analysis of the music he is about to play, expertly demonstrated at the keyboard. Most important of all, Mr. Arnowitt is not afraid to let his enthusiasms show. There is no other reason to play or to listen to music except the love of it, and Mr. Arnowitt’s love of, and delight in, his music is contagious...
    This is community education at its very best.”
     – The White River Valley Herald
“Michael is a real gem -- he is a natural educator, relaxed, informative and never boring. His comments bring real insight to the work, and the audience was very appreciative.”
     – Onion River Arts Council
“I heard from many attendees that their appreciation of the Ives Sonata was greatly enhanced by your introduction and the readings. I was proud that the library could bring a performer of your caliber to the community.”
     – Scarborough Public Library
“All were struck by the way you broke down the barrier between performer and audience; you created an inviting, congenial atmosphere on stage – then you blew ’em away with your playing ... many, many thanks for your extraordinary concert for American Music Week.”
     – Middlebury College
“Thank you for the excellent lecture/demonstration ... it was our intent to put a pianist in front of the student body at Madison High School. The musical selections used, including Darius Milhaud’s The Creation of the World were exactly what we had hoped to expose our students to ...
    The quality of your performance and presentation were appreciated by all. Our special guest that day, William Cleveland, site evaluator for the National Foundation for the Arts, was very complimentary about the program and your selections performed for the students.”
     – Wesserunsett Arts Council

Michael Arnowitt’s lively performance/lectures are modelled on the format popularized by Leonard Bernstein, in which illuminating spoken commentary is augmented and clarified by demonstrations of details on the piano. Complete performances of some of the tunes are sprinkled throughout the presentation to increase variety.

Michael has generally found the best approach is to take a small fragment of a piece of music and explore it in great detail. He offers insights regarding the music, the performers’ lives, and the social and historical context of the world at the time the music was created.

All lecture-demonstrations are suitable for the general public; no prior knowledge of music theory is required, as Michael has over the years figured out how to explain even fairly advanced musical ideas without using complicated terminology. He has also worked hard to ensure that even those with a good background in music will go away having learned something new; Michael’s presentations always reflect his recent discoveries about the music he is currently immersed in, so his talks are always fresh and original.

Michael Arnowitt’s educational talks can be stand-alone events, or presented in conjunction with a separate full-length concert performance (for example, a talk for students during the day and a concert that evening).