Willard Jenkins began teaching at Cleveland State University in 1981, where he taught Jazz Survey and History of Jazz. He has additionally taught courses for the adult continuing education program known as Open University as well as incremental opportunities to teach at conferences, workshops and as guest lecturer on college and university campuses since the mid-1980s. In 2003 he began his current stint teaching online courses at his alma mater Kent State University, where he designed a unique course titled Jazz Imagines Africa. This course examines the efforts of many jazz musicians down through history in their various “imaginings” of Africa, thus in a way reversing the equation in the case of a music whose roots are in Africa. The course not only examines such seminal work as Duke Ellington’s “A Drum is a Woman,” through Dizzy Gillespie’s Afro-Cuban explorations, Max Roach’s “Freedom Now Suite,” John Coltrane’s “Africa,” George Russell’s “The African Game,” and Archie Shepp’s collaborations with Tuareg musicians and his “imaginings” of Mozambique, it also examines the Afro-Caribbean roots music of Count Ossie, and Danish guitarist Pierre Doerge’s New Jungle Orchestra. Included also in this course are the long-term African residencies of NEA Jazz Masters Yusef Lateef and Randy Weston. Texts have included A Night in Tunisia by Norman C. Weinstein (core text), Jazz 101 by John Szwed, Marshall Stearn’s classic The Story of Jazz, and most recently added African Rhythms, the autobiography of Randy Weston (composed by Randy Weston, arranged by Willard Jenkins).
Willard Jenkins is the artistic director of Tri-C JazzFest (Cleveland, OH), founded in 1979 and long noted as “America’s premier educational jazz festival…” One of the cornerstone components of Tri-C JazzFest is its 3-day jazz education intensive featuring high school jazz ensembles from across the region, under the tutelage of the Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) Jazz Studies program and visiting artist/educators in residence. Next festival: April 28-May 8, 2011; Information: www.tricpresents.com
Willard Jenkins serves as the artistic advisor to the Mid Atlantic Jazz Festival, which has a significant education component and features among its many performances high school jazz ensembles from around the Washington, DC metro region. Next festival: February 18-20, 2011; Information: www.midatlanticjazzfestival.org.
Jazz Education Network
Willard Jenkins serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Jazz Education Network (JEN) and is currently in the development phase of a unique jazz mentorship project. The second annual JEN conference is slated for January 6-8 at the historic Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, LA. Information: www.jazzednet.org
Through a grant from the Gates Foundation, KnowledgeWorks Foundation through its EdWorks project has engaged Suzan & Willard Jenkins as consultants to craft a high school curriculum program based on the fundamentals of the art of improvisation. Information: www.knowledgeworks.org.