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Jazz in Schools was initiated by the Los Angeles Jazz Society in 1988 and provides free jazz education performances by professional musicians in elementary schools during the month of February, Black History Month.  The purpose of the project is to introduce young students to jazz as a uniquely American art form and to recognize the important contribution made to American culture by African Americans.  The project also addresses the need for the arts in Los Angles public schools.  This is especially true in music, and exposure to jazz is almost non-existent.  In order to include the entire City of Los Angeles, schools are selected to represent all fifteen City Council districts equally with a focus on schools most in need. The number of school children benefiting from these concerts each year is approximately 23,000.


The program is designed especially for the enjoyment and education of young people.  During concerts, students are introduced to the instruments and their capabilities; they see a demonstration of how the musicians relate to each other in the improvisational style of jazz; they are exposed to different forms of jazz and hear how they developed historically; they learn how jazz is related to current forms of pop music and they interact with musicians in clapping, marching and dancing.  Students learn about Latin jazz and its relationship with American jazz as introduced by a Spanish-speaking musician and they learn that jazz provides equal opportunity for women from a female member of the group.


Unlike most school music assemblies which are “concert only”, Jazz in Schools seeks to make the concert a learning and fun experience by preparing the students for the concert and by including their active participation.  Prior to concerts, a Concert Preparation Package is sent to each school.  The package was prepared by the founder of Jazz Studies at the University of Southern California and consists of a Teaching Outline on jazz history and a CD representing artists and music presented in the Outline.  Students are encouraged to listen to jazz and to consider studying  musical instrument.

Goals and objectives were initially established by a committee of music educators, jazz musicians and Jazz Society board members.  At the end of each concert, children should:

  • be familiar with each instrument
  • be familiar with some important names in jazz
  • be aware of cultural contributions of African Americans
  • have some idea of what is distinctive about jazz as opposed to other music
  • be exposed to different styles of jazz, including Latin jazz
  • be inspired to further listening and learning about jazz

– Click below to watch a video on Jazz in Schools –



Click on arrow to begin the PowerPoint



Jazz in Schools employs three jazz combos of five musicians.  All of the musicians are among the finest and most experienced jazz musician/educators in Los Angeles.

Group leaders

RYAN CROSS: Ryan Cross is a name that is synonymous with professionalism and musical excellence. Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Ryan moved to Los Angeles, California when he received a full scholarship to attend the University of Southern California where he studied under John Clayton. He graduated in 1999 with a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies. He has appeared and recorded on over 100 TV shows and movies to date, including Glee, Friends, ER, The West Wing, Studio 60, Cold Case, Along Came Polly and Poseidon. He has also graced the recording studio and stage with Beyoncé, Rihanna, Stevie Wonder, Arturo Sandoval, Jill Scott, John Legend, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan. Ryan produces live shows weekly at the world renown The Peppermint Club, Blind Dragon and The Sofitel Hotel where he features the world’s top jazz musicians and vocalists. For several years, he has maintained a strong relationship with the The Los Angeles Jazz Society and has gone out to many schools in the Los Angeles’ Unified School District to spark the interest of children to play music. Most recently, Ryan won a Grammy Award with his participation on Beyoncé’s album Lemonade.

Charles Owens:  Known as a consummate musician’s musician, Charles Owens has worked with Gerald Wilson, Miles Davis Duke Ellington and Buddy rich among others.  He is a master woodwind musician who maintains professional proficiency on tenor, alto, soprano and baritone saxophones, clarinet, flute, oboe, bassoon and English horn.  His skilled musicianship and rare ability to produce original sounds on all of these instruments places him in demand as a jazz artist of international repute.   Owens is well-known as a teacher who is busy as a faculty member of UC Irvine.   He says his greatest passion is teaching young people.

Dr. Bobby Rodriguez:  Latin legend and Grammy Nominated recording artist Dr. Bobby Rodriguez is a trumpeter, author, and an award-winning educator. He is a professor of Jazz and Latin Jazz at UCLA, UC Irvine, and Pasadena City College, very involved in the community and is a Salesian graduate and former student body President (’68).

His impressive dedication to music has allowed him to perform or record with an illustrious array of world-class musicians including Quincy Jones, Lalo Schifrin, Arturo Sandoval, Wynton Marsalis, Carlos Santana, Chaka Kahn, Gerald Wilson, Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and many others. Dr. Rodriguez has earned a Gold and three Platinum records, produced six of his own recordings. He is currently writing his third publication, “ABC’s of Jazz Improvisation.” 

2020 Jazz in Schools Concert Schedule 

Click for concert schedule! 


• Jazz In Schools – Media