JDP & TRW: ‘Holding the Torch for Liberty’: A Great Musical Theatre Learning Experience for YOUR School or Theater!

Jazz Drama ProgramHOLDING THE TORCH FOR LIBERTY tells the story of the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States, circa 1920.  Through ragtime, classic blues, New Orleans and Cuban infused original music this musical traces how courageous working women joined forces to fight for and win final passage of the 19th Amendment.  Combining actual historical events with magical realism, the Statue of Liberty comes to life, goes dancing in a Harlem nightclub, and later meets a determined group of suffragists, Ms. Liberty’s torch becomes a window to the future, as the roles for women in the country grow – women doctors, lawyers, engineers and even the president.  With the country openly divided, a lone congressman from Tennessee gets and inspirational letter from his mother reminding him that standing up for justice and doing what is right comes easily when you follow your heart.

HOLDING THE TORCH FOR LIBERTY is a part of the Jazz Drama Program (JDP). TRW is the exclusive representative for this JDP title and NORA’S ARK. The Jazz Drama Program creates original jazz musicals for young people to perform for their peers. It was founded in 2003 as a non-profit arts organization in New York City by jazz musician Eli Yamin, and teacher Clifford Carlson to advance the appreciation of jazz and musical theatre among youth.

“We embrace the infinite possibilities of using jazz to tell stories which are important to children,” says Eli Yamin. “As a dynamic, engaging and challenging platform for creativity, jazz provides us with a forum for new directions in theatre for young people and an educational framework rooted firmly in America’s most influential indigenous art form. Jazz grew out of the African American experience and has become a universal language celebrated worldwide. The Jazz Drama Program provides an opportunity for children to experience for themselves the joy and richness of jazz. Each new show is suitable for young people to perform and yet maintains the integrity of being ‘real music.’”

Jazz Drama Program musicals reflect the many styles of jazz.The original music is evocative of the sound and spirit of great jazz masters like John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Sun Ra, Mary Lou Williams, Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. Although Jazz Drama Program musicals are written for Middle School students to perform, they have been performed by both younger and older students. Each musical features a large cast (30+ speaking roles), five ensemble musical numbers, a jazz underscore, and an accompaniment CD. The running time for each show will be about an hour.

'NewsGirl Rag' from the 2003 Louis Armstrong Middle School production of Holding The Torch For Liberty

The Jazz Drama Program (JDP) has created a dynamic, groundbreaking learning platform that can reveal the importance of jazz in American life on a totally new level. Though the JDP believes that telling the stories of great jazz musicians is important, the JDP has learned that there is a much better way to reach young people with the subject of jazz. The relevance of the story being told provides intrinsic motivation to students and facilitates an exceptionally accelerated learning environment. The JDP experiential method enables students to own the essential ingredients of jazz in the context of the stories they are telling.

Teaching Artists guide students in making the swing and shuffle beats their own in a spirit of fun and collaboration. The notion of improvisation becomes an unstoppable learning tool, which can be used both in music, theatre and every day life. Historical dances such as swing and the cakewalk, become visceral learning experiences with clear connections to American History. Practicing diction in the context of singing a bebop line with many syllables and a driving rhythmic framework challenges students both physically and mentally to expand their view of their own abilities cognitively, creatively and in terms of self confidence.

Click here to learn more about producing HOLDING THE TORCH FOR LIBERTY with your school or theatre organization.

Click here to learn more about NORA’S ARK, also from the Jazz Drama Program!