Reviews are upbeat for kids’ jazz workshop in Trenton

Locally based program targets underprivileged children.

By: Jennifer Potash
   The inaugural season of a summer jazz program for underprivileged children in Trenton won rave reviews from the Princeton-based organizers.
   The children’s Summer Jazz Workshop, an offshoot of the Jazz For Justice Project that brings musical opportunities to inmates at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, offered a six-week program to children at the Imani Community Center in Trenton this summer.
   The children’s program has its genesis with the Jazz All-Stars, a group comprised of inmates at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton who have gathered to play music for the past year and half, said Jean Ross, a Princeton Borough resident and co-founder of the Jazz For Justice program.
   The budding young musicians completed their summer program Saturday with a jazz recital.
   Ms. Ross said the program met its goals for its debut season.
   The program accomplished what it set out to do, Ms. Ross said, which "was to get little hands playing instruments."
   At the recital, the children performed the piece "I am somebody," she said.
   One mission of the Imani Community Center, housed at the Imani Presbyterian Church, is to provide cultural and artistic opportunities to an economically disadvantaged community, Ms. Ross said.
   Located off Prospect Street in Trenton, the center already offers a summer program for children so the jazz program fits in well, Ms. Ross said.
   Children from the nearby Clara Muhammad School, located at a Trenton mosque, also participated in the program, Ms. Ross said.
   The next step is to attract volunteers and financial support to keep the jazz lessons throughout the school year, Ms. Ross said.
   "We want to support these children in full-time music study," Ms. Ross said.
   These classes during the school year would fill an educational gap because Trenton public schools do not provide music instruction until high school, she said.
   Throughout the six-week program, the children learned basic elements of melody, harmony and rhythm for about one to two hours a day, Ms. Ross said.
   Ms. Ross said news coverage about the children’s program attracted a couple of volunteers from local high schools.
   Elizabeth Dicker of West Windsor and Michael Huse of Princeton both volunteered and their efforts were greatly appreciated, Ms. Ross said. Elizabeth also helped the Imani Center’s regular summer camp, she said.
   Michael, who plays the guitar in the Princeton High School jazz band, gave guitar and bass guitar lessons to the jazz program participants, Ms. Ross said.
   The jazz program at the New Jersey State Prison is also continuing to grow and also needs volunteers, Ms. Ross said. There is a lengthy waiting list among inmates seeking to join the music classes, she said.
   Musicians volunteering for the program were somewhat apprehensive about going into the prison to teach but were thrilled with the experience in the end, Ms. Ross said.
   "All of the musicians we invited applauded the program and wanted to come back," she said.
For more information about volunteering for Jazz for Justice or the Children’s Jazz Workshop, contact Ms. Ross at (609) 924-6508, by e-mail at or at Jazz for Justice, Box 1563, Princeton, NJ 08542-1563.