Kids love Coltrane
August 21, 2008 10:27 AM   Subscribe

A cool tale about second graders at P.S. 178 in Queens falling in love with John Coltrane, and raising funds to help restore the house in nearby Dix Hills [previously on mefi] where the saxophonist (and saint?) composed his spiritual masterpiece A Love Supreme [last four links go to Youtube].
posted by the_bone (18 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Cool story and cool post.
What an awesome teacher Christine Passarella is, all kids deserve teachers like that!
posted by madamjujujive at 10:41 AM on August 21, 2008

Dude had more houses than John McCain. Good post, though.
posted by fixedgear at 10:44 AM on August 21, 2008

That's a great story—thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 11:01 AM on August 21, 2008

his spiritual masterpiece A Love Supreme

Later co-opted by Taco Bell for their decidedly secular jingle 'A Burrito Supreme.'
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 11:05 AM on August 21, 2008

Yeah, fixed gear, but he didn't own them all at once. Nor do I think the McCains would get caught dead in any of Mr. Coltrane's homes.

There's something to be said for young children being more open emotionally to music. When I was in the fifth grade I started playing Saxaphone in the school band. It was a squeaky squawky affair directed by Mr. Luck who traveled around the school district in a yellow school bus converted to be a mobile music room for individual lessons. He was very patient, though didn't really tolerate things like my added feeling for a riff in Aura Lee. It was strictly by the book with him.

My oldest brother, who is 9 years older than me was really into Jazz then (as we both still are), and was a DJ at the college radio station, KDVS. To encourage me to practice and get better he would play albums of different Sax players for me. One evening he played the live version of "My Favorite Things" which I think is one of the greatest live jazz performances ever recorded. My reaction wasn't how great it sounded, but to run to my room, dive onto my bed, and cry into my pillow. My brother came in and consoled me and asked me what was wrong, and I said "I'll NEVER be able to play like that."

Heh, no shit. 10 years old and realizing what genius is.

I continued playing in Jazz bands throughout my school years, and in some groups, but I never was very good. I never learned to express what I heard in my head, or could capture the emotion that the players I loved like Coltrane, Dolphy, and Sam Rivers, could. I never went on to anything great, but that early exposure to great music led me on to a lifelong love of music. I think it's a great thing for kids to be exposed to, and this is a great story about that. That teacher is awesome. Thanks for the post!
posted by Eekacat at 11:33 AM on August 21, 2008

"The school's Principal Diane Hobbes and Assistant Principal Patrick Klocek, in their review of Ms. Passarella's -- and her class's -- performance, said: 'During the past few months, you have given your students a wealth of prior knowledge they could not have received anywhere. Throughout the assembly program, every single one of your students smiled from ear to ear and walked with their chests pushed out and their heads held high. They will never forget this day when their teacher made them feel larger than life.'"
And one can only imagine the smiling faces and shared pride of those now-third graders as they read this morning's WSJ article.
posted by ericb at 11:48 AM on August 21, 2008

"Mr. Hentoff writes about jazz for the Journal." - Does this seem strange to anyone else?

Cool post, btw...
posted by space2k at 12:15 PM on August 21, 2008

Too bad they all flunked the state-mandated standardized test. They were Left Behind.
posted by GuyZero at 12:16 PM on August 21, 2008

In case you haven't seen it. Here is an oldie but a goldie. Giant Steps animated by Michael Levy.
posted by srboisvert at 2:04 PM on August 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

What a great story.

Google map of where John Coltrane's house is in Dix Hills.

It's interesting to see inside the house and I love seeing Alice Coltrane's harp there too near the piano. Not only did John Coltrane compose his Love Supreme there but Alice Coltrane composed her amazing, exquisite piece there, Journey in Satchidananda. "All pieces composed by Alice Coltrane. Tracks 1–4 recorded at the Coltrane home studio, Dix Hills, New York, on November 8, 1970"

A photo of some of the people involved with saving the house.
posted by nickyskye at 2:09 PM on August 21, 2008

Excellent post.
posted by acro at 3:33 PM on August 21, 2008

Another aerial view, with MS Live Maps.
posted by acro at 3:51 PM on August 21, 2008

I thought No Child Left Behind killed this kind of innovation in schools. It's good to see that this kind of thing can happen in public schools.
posted by shoesietart at 6:31 PM on August 21, 2008

As I write this I'm listening to Crescent. Coltrane, like Parker, Miles and Hendrix has been thoroughly analyzed, imitated and turned inside out and yet remains ineffable and mysterious. I think that these kids hear something that we dismiss, something outside of his extraordinary stamina & technique, or even his spiritual quest- I think that kids are directly connecting to Trane's essential innocence-his ultra nerdiness, and his boundless curiosity.
posted by vurnt22 at 8:25 PM on August 21, 2008

Weaning children at an early age on John Coltrane just might contribute to world peace and universal consciousness.
posted by bodywithoutorgans at 9:32 PM on August 21, 2008

Ms. Passarella's second-grade students, she says, would have told him how moved they were by not only the ballads "but the more avant-garde recordings, such as 'Interstellar Space.'"

posted by Wolof at 9:40 PM on August 21, 2008

I think that all schools should include more music and less "boring shit" (that's a technical pedagogical term, by the way).
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:23 AM on August 22, 2008

My music teacher turned me on to ELO and Supertramp. Ah Good Times. Good Times.
posted by srboisvert at 2:59 AM on August 22, 2008

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