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Children look down from a balcony in Perelman Theater watching a tap dancer on stage during a Jazz4Freedom event in 2019.

Community, Mentorship, and Support: Using Jazz In The Classroom

Posted by:  Hailey Brinnel, Educational Program Manager on January 27, 2022

I grew up in a small town in Western Massachusetts as part of a very musical family.  I started performing at the age of 12 with my father, a piano-player and singer, in restaurants and other regional venues (including some questionable local dive bars)! I played trombone professionally through high school and was fortunate to have a strong public school music program as well as community programs that helped me continue to develop my skills as a performer.

I moved to Philadelphia in 2013 to attend Temple University and was instantly captivated by the breadth and depth of music existing in the city.  I went to every concert, jam session, and musical event possible and decided to extend my stay after graduating to truly make Philly my home.


Philadelphia has a very special music scene.  It is large enough that you can continuously find new and wonderful people to hear and make music with, but small enough that there is a strong sense of community among its musicians and concertgoers. And it is this sense of community that allows Jazz music to thrive in Philadelphia and drives so many incredible musicians to make this city their musical home.

Jazz is a genre that relies heavily on communities, mentor-mentee relationships, and support.  Supportive communities with strong musical leaders are what raise the next generation of musicians and keeps music alive.  We wouldn’t have John Coltrane, Pat Martino, and Michael Brecker if guitarist Dennis Sandole hadn’t provided them supportive mentorship right here in Philly!

Community, mentorship, and support need to exist on the bandstand, but they are also foundational to how we approach arts education.  Not every student is going to be the next John Coltrane, but every student has the potential to be their own type of artist, music-lover, and lifelong appreciator of the arts. For these three concepts of community, mentorship, and support to occur in the classroom, the following must be true:

  • Students need to feel represented
  • Students need consistent support and reinforcement from educators
  • Students need to know that their creative voices are valid and significant

This is why programs like Jazz4Freedom at the Kimmel Cultural Campus are so important. I have taught and performed in Jazz4Freedom for several years, helping to bring Jazz music and discussions about social change into Philly classrooms.  The program emphasizes the ties between the development of Jazz music and social change movements throughout the 20th and 21st centuries through virtual or in-classroom workshops and a performance.


Hailey performing with saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins (a former Kimmel education student!) in a virtual Jazz4Freedom performance in 2021.

The program culminates in post-performance workshop where students work together to compose a song that promotes the social changes that they want to see in their community, country, and the world.  The teaching artists function as mentors.  They showcase diverse examples of music and musicians, support students in new musical endeavors, and validate the significance of the students’ creative voices.  Not only does this program allow every student to become a musician, it promotes creativity with purpose.  Students get to see how their creative input can be unique to them, connect them to the community, and have an impact on the world.


Students working together to compose a song during a post-show workshop in 2019.

As an arts educator, my job is to empower students to find their creative voices, and Jazz music can be the catalyst to this goal in an academic setting. The three tenants of community, mentorship, and support have served Jazz musicians for the past century and are extremely beneficial to student growth and achievement when brought into the classroom.  These opportunities empower students while building their creative confidence and willingness to take risks in their learning across disciplines.

I’m excited to work more closely with the Education and Community Engagement Team at the Kimmel Cultural Campus and add my perspective to the many dynamic programs that bring Jazz education to students and community members throughout the Philadelphia region.

Thanks for reading, and if you see a short blonde woman with a trombone on her back walking around the city, please say hello!


Hailey Brinnel is a trombonist, vocalist, and educator who has worked with the Kimmel Cultural Campus in recent years as a teaching artist and performer, before joining our education team. She is a working jazz musician performing regularly throughout the city, is on faculty at The University of the Arts, and now will be primarily coordinating our many Jazz Programs, such as the Creative Music Program, Neighborhood Jams, Kinder Jazz, and Jazz4Freedom. You can also check out her new album “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” on Spotify.

Jazz4Freedom is generously supported by a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the 2022 program is sponsored by Independence Blue Cross.

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