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THE ORCHESTRA SWINGS

Supporting Resources

Literacy Links: The Orchestra Swings

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown

Katheryn Russell-Brown’s charming picture-book biography is a tribute to the trailblazing jazz trombonist, Melba Doretta Liston. Overcoming obstacles of race and gender, Melba goes from self-taught seven-year-old to a famed musician and arranger for jazz luminaries of the twentieth century.

Duke Ellington (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers) by Mike Venezia

Meet Duke Ellington in Mike Venezia’s humorous (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers) series. This imaginative book describes Ellington’s journey to piano and jazz, highlighting a range of great works including “Black and Tan Fantasy,” “Mood Indigo,” and “Harlem Airshaft.”

Born to Swing: Lil Hardin Armstrong’s Life in Jazz by Mara Rockliff

Mara Rockliff’s vibrant picture-book biography chronicles the life of Lil Hardin Armstrong, a legendary pianist, composer, bandleader, and pioneer of female musicianship. At a time when women’s only place in jazz was at the microphone, “Hot Miss Lil” earned a spot playing piano in prominent bands and arranged for many jazz luminaries of the twentieth century.

George Gershwin (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers) by Mike Venezia

Meet George Gershwin in Mike Venezia’s humorous (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers) series. This playful biography traces Gershwin’s lifelong love of jazz and discusses how masterpieces such as Rhapsody in Blue, American in Paris, and Porgy and Bess, helped shape both classical and popular genres.

Leonard Bernstein (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers) by Mike Venezia

Meet Leonard Bernstein in Mike Venezia’s (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers) series. This book paints an imaginative portrait of the American composer through a combination of poignant anecdotes, important facts, full-color historical reproductions, and cartoon-style illustrations.

Blues Journey by Walter Dean Myers

In Blues Journey, Walter Dean Myers explores the form and feeling of the blues. Each page features call-and-response between a blues-style verse and cool colored artwork, resulting in a powerful meditation on the Black American experience and the solace that can be found in music.

I See the Rhythm by Toyomi Igus

Toyomi Igus’s I See the Rhythm explores the beat, style, and spirit of African American music through a stunning combination of visual art and poetic text. The book invites young readers to dance along to the rhythms of African drums, to swing and hip hop.

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney

Duke Ellington, written in jazzy, rhythmic rhymes, chronicles the life of the great jazz pianist from his first music lessons to a triumphant debut of “Black, Brown, and Beige” at Carnegie Hall.

Jazz by Walter Dean Myers

In fifteen poems, Jazz takes readers on a colorful and lyrical journey through the history of jazz. Important historical and contextual information sets the stage for a visual paean to bebop, ragtime, boogie, and jazz styles of the present day.

Little Eddie Goes to Carnegie Hall by Sean Hollins and Sonya Hollins

When Little Eddie visits Carnegie Hall with his music teacher, the world of music comes alive. Based on the childhood piano lessons of classical pianist Edward Callahan Jr., Little Eddie Goes to Carnegie Hall highlights prominent African American musicians who have performed at Carnegie Hall, such as Duke Ellington and Florence Price, and invites readers to find their own musical voice.

Who Is Florence Price? by Students of the Special Music School Kaufman Music Center

Who Is Florence Price? is a biographical account of an African American composer who prevailed against race and gender prejudices to become the first Black woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer and have her work performed by a major American orchestra. The book was written and illustrated by young musicians from New York City who were inspired by Price’s music, life, and legacy.

Literacy Links: General

Because by Mo Willems

Mo Willems’ moving picture book traces a young girl’s journey to the center stage. “Because” of interconnected moments of chance, sacrifice, persistence, and magic, the protagonist discovers a lifelong love of music and grows up to conduct her own symphonies.

Orchestra by Avolon Nuovo

In this engaging introduction to the symphony orchestra, Avolon Nuovo explores the orchestra’s history, instrument families, and the life and work of luminary composers such as Duke Ellington and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood

Susan Hood tells the extraordinary true tale of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, a youth orchestra whose instruments are fashioned from recycled trash. Available in English and Spanish, Ada’s Violin reveals the profound ways in which music can change the way we see ourselves and our communities.

The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket

There’s dreadful news from the symphony hall—the composer is dead! Inspired by Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Lemony Snicket’s irreverent murder mystery invites students to join the Inspector as he interrogates the instruments of the orchestra.

Music Is... by Stephen T. Johnson

Music Is... explores ten different genres of music—classical, Latin, jazz, country, heavy metal, hip-hop, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, electronica, pop, and a surprise finale. Students will delight in this imaginative journey of sounds, styles, and rhythms as they unfold through a unique accordion book form.

Do Re Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido D’Arezzo by Susan Roth

Susan Roth tells the lesser-known story of Guido D’Arezzo, an Italian monk who devised the first system of musical notation in the early 11th century. Readers follow D’Arezzo from his boyhood in the choir to his eventual achievement, and learn how his invention led to the beginnings of musical systems we use today.

Can You Hear It? by William Lach

Can You Hear It? pairs masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art with orchestral works from a broad range of composers, including Gershwin and Vivaldi. Lach describes connections between musical compositions and artworks, and invites young readers to identify instruments and orchestral themes while listening to an accompanying CD.

Little Eddie Goes to Carnegie Hall by Sean Hollins and Sonya Hollins

When Little Eddie visits Carnegie Hall with his music teacher, the world of music comes alive. Based on the childhood piano lessons of classical pianist Edward Callahan Jr., Little Eddie Goes to Carnegie Hall highlights prominent African American musicians who have performed at Carnegie Hall, such as Duke Ellington and Florence Price, and invites readers to find their own musical voice.

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