What would Ariana Grande sound like with an Afro-Cuban beat? How about a Hard-Bop Happy? Can an entire piece be improvised on the spot?

In the Musicfest Jazz concert assembly, students will explore a variety of Jazz styles through unique arrangements of popular tunes. Starting with songs familiar to students, teaching artists create Jazz Heads in styles ranging from Blakey’s Hard Bop to Machito’s Afro-Cuban Jazz.

Featuring The Nash Education Ensemble, students connect with the history of this uniquely American art form through up-and-coming Valley Jazz musicians. Students will experience free improvisation, learn about luminaries of Jazz music, and hear some of their favorite tunes recast in this interactive concert.

Schedule a performance and find pre- and post-concert materials in the tabs below; we look forward to visiting you and your students!

The Musicfest Jazz Concert Assembly is currently available for Fall and Spring Semester scheduling. Please use the form link below to request a performance:

Scheduling Form


Intended for Grades: 4-8

Maximum Number of students: 250



Runtime: 40 minutes

Setup time: 30 minutes 

Teardown time: 20 minutes


Staging Requirements:

Potential performance areas: Cafeterias, Gymnasiums, Auditoria, MPRs, or Classrooms.

Space needed for performers: 15’ x 15’


Materials Required for Performance:

Requested from School: PA System, AC Power Sockets for Amplifiers, 5 Music Stands

Provided by Musicfest: Amplifiers and Cabling

Music Class Activity

Originals and Arrangements

Introduction: Throughout its history, Jazz musicians have borrowed melodies from pre-existing pop or folk songs, musicals, and movies they’ve loved and used them as Heads; the foundation of their improvisations. Musicians from The Nash created unique arrangements for the Musicfest Jazz concert, and in this activity, students will explore other instances where musicians arranged a pre-existing popular song.


Musicfest Jazz: Compare and Contrast Playlist (YouTube)

Musicfest Jazz Class Activity Thinking Map (PDF)

Activity: Select one pair of recordings (e.g. My Favorite Things performed Julie Andrews / John Coltrane) and play both for students. Lead them through a discussion exploring what they like and notice about each performance individually, and then what the performances have in common and their differences. How do the differences change the feeling or mood of the song? Students may use the thinking map above to record their observations regarding the commonalities and differences.

Conclusion: Encourage students to reflect on melodies from songs they like and what they might sound like in different styles. You can reference the Further LIstening tab for playlists highlighting some of the styles explored in the Musicfest Jazz concert.

Find YouTube playlists highlighting the styles explored in the Musicfest Jazz Concert by clicking the images below!

Free Jazz






Afro-Cuban Jazz