Vocalize and Verse: A Multifaceted Approach to Teaching Jazz Music with Billie Holiday
As an educator, one of the best ways to introduce students to different genres of music is by using examples of iconic artists. Billie Holiday is one such artist whose legacy has made a tremendous impact on the music industry and has become a household name in jazz.
Born in 1915, Billie Holiday, also known as Lady Day, was a jazz singer and songwriter who created an emotional connection with her music, touching the hearts of listeners through the ups and downs of her life. Her genre of music is often classified as jazz, and specifically, she is known for her contributions to the sub-genre of “vocalese” – a singing style that involves the use of wordless syllables to create a vocalized texture.
Billie Holiday’s music was much more than just notes and melodies. Her voice echoed emotions and experiences, telling a story that resonated with her listeners. She sang about love, heartbreak, and inequality. Her music was often characterized by sadness and despair, but her voice also had the power to evoke hope and optimism. It is this mix of emotions and raw talent that cemented her legacy as an iconic figure that people still aspire to emulate.
Introducing Billie Holiday’s music to students can be a great way to teach them about jazz as a genre and the many sub-genres within it. Start by sharing some of her most popular pieces, such as “Strange Fruit,” “God Bless the Child,” or “Lover Man.” Depending on students’ ages, you can provide some historical context, such as the oppression of Black Americans during her time, which influenced her music.
One exciting project can be to have students research the art of vocalization in jazz music. They can take a closer look at the various techniques used by Holiday and other jazz vocalists. Students can study how the timing, intonation, and lyrics of their songs create an emotional response to the listeners, and how the genre has evolved over time.
Incorporating the art of Billie Holiday into the classroom is an excellent way to engage students in music education. Her music showcases the beauty of jazz, and encourages students to appreciate the emotive power of music. Her music and legacy have been continually referenced in pop culture and popularized for modern-day audiences, making it more accessible and relevant to current generations. By learning about Billie Holiday’s music, students can gain an appreciation for jazz and all of its complexities.