Students jive to Charlie Parker and Count Basie during Montgomery blues program

Montgomery County fifth-graders enjoy a morning of jazz music in the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Montgomery County fifth-graders enjoy a morning of jazz music in the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

The band’s beats and chords squished together like putty and dangled apart across subtle silence, and 1,600 pairs of little eyeballs widened as trombone tones danced to a Caribbean groove. Children jived and twisted in their seats as notes barreled and swayed around them.

It was 10:30 a.m. on a Wednesday, a time when these children would normally be doing long division or working on comma placement. But this rainy, chilly October morning was different: It was a perfect day for the blues.

Droves of 10-year-olds came to the Strathmore arts center from all over Montgomery County as part of a decade-old partnership with the county’s school system that exposes children to live music at the organization’s massive music hall in North Bethesda.

The live blues program fits directly into Montgomery’s music curriculum, which fifth-graders are working on, said Katherine Murphy, the county’s content specialist for K-12 general and choral music. It aims to expose students to the music and its cultural importance.

“They are learning chord changes and the 12-bar blues form,” Murphy said. “They’re also learning about nontraditionally classical instruments like the drums and the electric guitar.”

The rest of this article can be found here as it appeared on page B1 of The Washington Post.

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