Conference Spotlight: Jazz for Kids!

Joy Hirokawa, R&S Chair, Children’s and Community Youth

Being a long time jazz fan, and firmly believing that jazz is America’s music and we need to teach it, I began a search years ago to find choral repertoire suitable for children and youth choirs. ACDA has long had a Jazz R&S committee, and I always tried to attend the reading sessions, but often came up empty handed. While there were frequently a few treble voiced pieces included in the wonderful repertoire they presented, the orientation was typically more towards older voices, with topics that were, shall we say, not terribly appealing to kids. (I don’t know many children who really care to sing about lost romance, often the subject of some of the best jazz repertoire!) Many of the arrangements were too complex.  Or, repertoire thatwas dubbed a “jazz” arrangement was often dumbed down and had little jazz left in it, particularly in the accompaniment.

So I began writing my own arrangements as a solution. Gradually, I found a few other composers who seemed to also understand how to write for young voices, how to select songs to arrange that kids would love to sing, and how to write accompaniments that sounded like jazz. Interested in learning more about how to getyour young singers introduced to jazz? Please join me at my “Jazz Choral Music for Kids!” session on Saturday, February 13! We will have a reading packet of repertoire, and you will be singing and scatting your way through the session. I will be presenting ideas to get even your youngest singers started, methods to help them understand the language of jazz aka scat, and a variety of music of different levels of difficulty. And, you will have fun!

Not comfortable with the genre, but curious? Even more reason to come! Be there or be square!


Dr. Joy Hirokawa is Assistant Professor of Music Education at Moravian College (Bethlehem, PA) and the Founder and Artistic Director of The Bel Canto Children’s Chorus. Under her direction, the choir has appeared on ACDA, NAfME, and PMEA conferences, and has traveled internationally. Dr. Hirokawa is a frequent guest conductor and clinician, presenting regularly at ACDA, NAfME and PMEA conferences and conducting numerous honor choirs nationally. Her published arrangements include her jazz arrangement of “Lullaby of Birdland,” recently included Voices in Concert, the new choral text published by McGraw-Hill and Hal Leonard, and “My Favorite Things,” featured on numerous honor choir programs. Her newest jazz arrangement for young voices is “Accentuate the Positive,” available from Hal Leonard. She is the current ACDA Eastern Division Repertoire and Standards Chair for Children and Youth. Dr. Hirokawa taught in the public schools for 20 years prior to her appointment at Moravian College.