It’s a familiar theme nowadays: budgets for school districts around the nation are in the red, employees are being laid off and parents are increasingly trying to bridge the gaps in student curriculum created by the aforementioned factors.
Parents on the Westside in recent years have become adept at tapping into their professional connections to assist their children’s schools in creative ways. In an effort to promote cultural awareness as well as raise needed funds, the Westport Heights Elementary School Booster Club is collaborating with Loyola Marymount University’s Family of Schools for a night of jazz beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 5.
The festival is a means of supporting the growing financial needs of Westport Heights as education budgets are cut statewide, while promoting cultural awareness, according to the organizers.
The jazz festival will be held in the ballroom of the Proud Bird Restaurant in Westchester.
The Westchester elementary school, like most schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District, has lost teacher positions and programs over the last several years.
Dorothy Armstrong, who teaches first grade at Westport Heights and is part of the school’s jazz cadre, says the concert will have a dual purpose.
“We are using this event as a creative means to raise funds and bring jazz to our students,” she said.
Her son, Timothy, is the musical director of the March 5 event.
The Armstrongs come from a family of musicians and enjoy imparting their artistic largess whenever they can, especially to students.
Kelly Kane, who has a son in 4th grade and a daughter in 3rd grade at Westport Heights, sees the benefit of combining a fundraiser with the cultural and historical elements of jazz.
“We have a culturally diverse student body and jazz is a fantastic fit for our school,” she said. “I think that the multicultural component of jazz can be so inspiring to our students and the parents.”
The show will feature artists such as Dwight Trible, Om’Mas Keith of Sa-Ra Creative Partners, Erik Rico, Henry Franklin, Preston Glass with Impromp2, and Donald Hayes.
The Jazz Society of Los Angeles sponsors a “Jazz in Schools” initiative that brings musicians to schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District to educate students about jazz. For Black History Month in February, professional musicians performed at Grand View Boulevard and Stoner Avenue elementary schools in Mar Vista.
“No other organization in Southern California is providing a jazz education program at this level in our schools,” states Los Angeles Jazz Society President Flip Manne, who added the organization is presenting an average of five in-school jazz concerts a day in February. “We are making a tremendous impact and have enriched the lives of more than 460,000 elementary school children since we launched ‘Jazz in Schools’ more than two decades ago.”
Kane said with the loss of so many arts programs and teachers due to the looming budget deficit facing LAUSD, having a professional musician like Dorothy Armstrong at her children’s school is an asset that most schools do not have.
Like many parents, Kane is proud of her school and views the concert as an opportunity to showcase what she feels are Westport Heights’ strengths.
“I hope that jazz lovers take an interest in our little elementary school and take the time to learn more about us,” she said.
The Proud Bird Grand Ballroom is at 11022 Aviation Blvd., Westchester.
Tickets may be purchased online at: www.whesboosterclub.org/jazzfestival.