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Nora's Ark, the Jazz Musical CD is released to Meet Growing Demand of Schools Licensing Play
(Published: November 16, 2010)

On November 10th, 2010 at the Bank Street College auditorium, The Jazz Drama Program (http://www.thejazzdramaprogram.org/) celebrated the release of their new CD, Nora's Ark, the jazz musical, which features music from their play of the same name. The play utilizes the method that the New York based nonprofit organization developed, which uses musical theater as a way to engage middle school students and introduce them to jazz music as well as explore topics and themes that are relevant to them. Donors, supporters and performers from past productions were all invited to celebrate with the Jazz Drama Program and were treated to a live performance of musical selections from the CD as well as to a premiere screening of a short documentary on the making of the CD.

It has been a long journey for co-founder / Artistic Director Eli Yamin and co-founder / educator Clifford Carlson. The journey began as an idea in 1998 through a Meet the Composer-New Music for Schools Grant awarded to jazz composer Eli Yamin and monies from The Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation. That year saw the premiere of the first jazz musical composed by Yamin and written by sixth grade teacher Clifford Carlson. The resulting effort, When Malindy Swings, based on a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar, as performed by students in the drama and music programs at the Louis Armstrong Middle School in Queens was a smash success.

Since then, the prolific duo has developed four more original jazz musicals including Nora's Ark. In 2003, The Jazz Drama Program officially incorporated with a mission to spread this unique concept to other schools and received its tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status in September of 2004.

First premiered in 2000, Nora's Ark is about a scientist named Nora who predicts the melting of the poles and the flooding of the Earth. Rescuing the animals at the Bronx Zoo, Nora and her daughters Dora, Flora, Lora and Fitzi rent a cruise ship. It seems all are saved, except that daughter Fitzi forgets to bring food. Fortunately, all animals discover that freedom is a greater sustaining force than food and ultimately cooperate in finding an edible solution. The context of the play was to tell a tale about living harmoniously, working together and empathizing with others.

Eli Yamin shared lessons learned from these productions to other educators and community leaders at various music workshops as a case study. Parts of Nora's Ark were used as participatory exercises to illustrate how the program worked. The enthusiastic response to the workshop by attendees led to interest in schools outside of New York to put on Nora's Ark for their students. Because of this increased demand nationwide, it became clear that a musical teaching tool was needed to better serve as an aid, hence the need for a CD with recorded tracks that can be used in the production.

Among the 50 attendees at the CD release party was Jeannette LoVetri, Director of The Voice Workshop and veteran singing voice specialist, who had been following Eli Yamin's Jazz Drama Program activities over the years. Ms. LoVetri was well acquainted with Dianne Berkun, Artistic Director and Founder of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy, and was trying to have her collaborate with Eli on a project. When it came time to record the CD, Ms. LoVetri was adamant that trained children singers should be used as a model of how young singers can sound. It was a wise choice and turned out to be a fruitful collaboration.

"I had been trying to get Dianne and Eli to work together for the last three years. Now, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus will be performing songs from Nora's Ark in a concert in May," said Ms. LoVetri.

The CD contains 16-tracks of music from the play and features the Eli Yamin Jazz Quintet and singers from the Grammy® Award winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy. In preparation for recording the music for Nora's Ark, rehearsals were scheduled once a week for four consecutive weeks in Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy with great support from Dianne Berkun. The recording session took place on March 6 and 7, 2010 at Avatar Studios (http://avatarstudios.net/) with generous support from the studio and from top jazz recording engineer Jim Anderson. The first day was spent recording the band. The second day was spent recording the vocalists. The result was a professionally produced CD with quality recordings reflecting the fact that the play and the concept were of high quality. To add the final touch, Daryl Long provided a lovely illustration for the cover.

The recording process over the two days spent in the studio was captured on videotape and was made into a short documentary called "Nora's Ark: Enriching Children's Lives" directed by Jason Scadron, edited by Michael Farkas and written by Kirk Imamura (also President of Avatar Studios). The 20-minute documentary was screened for the first time at the CD release party. It is also available for viewing at vimeo.com (http://vimeo.com/12326961).

"The enthusiasm and devotion these young people from the Brooklyn Youth Chorus have brought to Nora's Ark, show us again, how jazz inspires and excites young people. We are so grateful to Dianne Berkun and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Jazz Singers for joining with us on this jazz journey to make the music available to youth all over America and all over the world."

The Jazz Drama Program licenses Nora's Ark to schools and provides material for the theatrical production including CD of the songs, piano / vocal score, script and orchestrations for several instruments. Lessons learned from each school that puts on a production is shared with other schools as a way to empower more children and to spread the joys of jazz music and the benefits of arts education.

Nora's Ark has been performed multiple times in and around the Tri-State area and as far away as Santa Fe, New Mexico and Laurel, Mississippi. Recently, two more schools in Mississippi, located in Saltillo and Tupelo, have licensed the play to stage productions in spring of 2011. The Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy will be performing selections from Nora's Ark in their concert, Soundscapes 2011, on May 20 and 21 at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Brooklyn Heights. Tickets can be purchased at the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Web site (http://www.brooklynyouthchorus.org/events+tickets).

About The Jazz Drama Program

The Jazz Drama Program is a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization established in 2004 to commission original jazz musicals for young people and disseminate the work worldwide. Founded by jazz composer Eli Yamin and teacher / writer Clifford Carlson, The Jazz Drama Program (JDP) has developed the expertise to tell engaging stories relevant to children's lives using the language of jazz.

The Jazz Drama Program has created a dynamic, groundbreaking learning platform that can reveal the importance of jazz in American life on a totally new level. 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 effective learning tool, which can be used 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 cognitive and creative abilities and boosts their self confidence.

Based on this philosophy, Yamin and Carlson have written, developed and successfully staged five original jazz musicals for The Jazz Drama Program. The subjects of the musicals include the fight for Women's Suffrage circa 1920 (Holding the Torch of Liberty), growing up as a contemporary teen (Hear My Voice), the healing power of the blues (Message from Saturn) and a modern retelling of Noah's Ark with themes of cooperation, freedom and survival (Nora's Ark).

Hundreds of young people have embraced the work with their time and talent by performing the shows as dancers, singers, actors, instrumentalists and technical crew, and over 20,000 children and adults have applauded their efforts.

For more information about The Jazz Drama Program, their plays or how to license them, please go to thejazzdramaprogram.org

More Information: http://www.thejazzdramaprogram.org/

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