The school raised about $5,000 to benefit their students through a virtual jazz party on Monday hosted by five-time Grammy Award-winning musician Questlove, who is the frontman for "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon's" in-house band The Roots.
"It kind of fell into our laps," fourth-grade teacher Rebecca Nicholson said. "With a lot of planning on the lesson end of it, but a little bit of luck with how it came to be."
The event titled "Rent Party Jazz" was inspired by the children's book of the same name by author William Miller about New Orleans in the 1930s. "Rent Party Jazz" is required reading in Morningside's curriculum, as it deals with issues such as poverty, racial inequalities, and eviction.
Unfortunately, these are issues that a number of Morningside students are familiar with.
Nicholson and fellow teacher Emily Marcella said the children were in disbelief when they announced that Questlove would be hosting the event.
The elementary school uses collaborative planning, meaning that all of the teachers in the grade level worked together to plan "Rent Party Jazz" in conjunction with other school officials. The school was connected with Questlove by a Morningside staff member who had a mutual connection.
Originally, the school had just asked Questlove if he could make a short pre-recorded video about jazz music for the kids, as he is also a music historian. They were shocked when the artist answered and said he wanted to donate his time to put on the jazz party.
"We wanted to commend [the students'] hard work," Marcella said. "so we reached out to Questlove just to see if he would be like 'great job!' and he came up with this whole idea for us."
"Rent Party Jazz" included over an hour of jazz music mixed with Questlove's modern DJ style. During breaks, the artist would say things about Morningside School and a QR code that linked donors to the Morningside PTO's Venmo.
Nicholson said students were commenting on the live chat during the jazz party, saying hello to their teachers and posting dancing emojis.
"It was a really interesting way to get our kids into the music because it still had those traditional jazz roots but it had a little bit of modern flair to it that really got them invested in the music," Nicholson said.
Morningside pupils studied "Rent Party Jazz" through the lens of two main characters: Sonny Comeaux and Smiling Jack. Smiling Jack is a famous jazz musician who by chance meets Sonny and throws a jazz party to help him and his mother from being evicted.
Nicholson said her students were able to make connections between the book and real life.
"It's cool because the kids kind of made the connection that Questlove was like Smiling Jack for us," she said. "Because it was just by chance that we connected with this famous musician who then threw us this jazz party which then helped us."
One student reported that this whole experience made him find meaning in a poster on his wall that says "music is the solution to all problems." The youngster said music solved Sonny and his mother's problem of being evicted and also brought Questlove to the Morningside community to raise all of this money, so music must solve any problem.
Nicholson and Marcella said the school hasn't decided what the fundraiser money will specifically go toward because of the pandemic limiting options. They do know that it will benefit the students and will provide a positive impact on them.
"Whatever we do end up doing with the money, we want them kind of benefit from the experience of what it can bring to them," Nicholson said. "We really want to include them on what that decision is going to look like."
Morningside continues to accept donations through the QR code and by mail-in checks. The school suspects that after the "Rent Party Jazz" event is re-run they will receive more donations.
Monday was an exciting day for Morningside students, as they also received gifts from Berkshire Dream Center earlier in the day.
For about five years, the Berkshire Dream Center has been providing each child at the school with a gift at Christmas. This year, Morningside staff created an outdoor pickup system for the presents complete with decorations, snowmen, and Santa.
|iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.|
- New Methuselah Loses License for Two Days
- New Pittsfield Police Arrest Suspect in Pittsfield-Lenox Robbery Spree
- Zogics Using COVID-19 Fighting Fans To Keep Staff Healthy
- Mount Greylock, Wahconah Skiers Kick Off Season
- Regional Planning Commission Tackling County Housing Issue
- Berkshire County First-Responder Vaccinations Going Well