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April: Jazz Appreciation Month


Ashley Pitman, Strategic Marketing and Content

April 14, 2024

April is Jazz Appreciation Month. Jazz Appreciation Month (or JAM) was created by the Smithsonian in 2001 to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz as an American artform. 

Jazz has deep significance to American culture. Some even say that it was America’s first true original art form, emerging from ragtime and blues, and deeply influenced by African American traditions mixed with French, Caribbean, Italian, German, Mexican, American Indian, and English. The combination of these eclectic musical customs gradually formed a new sound, and thus jazz was born. 


This April marks the 125th birthday of one of the most esteemed jazz musicians of all time, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington. Duke was born on April 29, 1899, in Washington, DC, to pianists Daisy and James Edward Ellington. He was influenced by Ragtime music at an early age and quickly started composing his own pieces, even before he could read music. Eventually, he started taking private lessons and never looked back.

Duke Ellington composed dynamic music throughout his lifetime that inspired vivid visual imagery and emotion. Combining his unconventional orchestration technique with the unique talent of his individual orchestra members, Ellington was able to transpose everyday life into musical works of art.1 The resulting sound was more than just notes on a page. It created an emotional mood that connected the audience. When people listened to Ellington’s music, they’d hear more than just instruments combining to tell a musical story. Each band member would lend their unique style, and an entirely new, separate thing would emerge. This has come to be known as “The Ellington Effect,” which is when a band itself is considered to be the “instrument” distinct from what each member is playing. This concept was so novel and unique that some go as far as to say that Duke Ellington gave American music its own sound for the first time.2

Duke Ellington

For more information on Jazz Appreciation Month, resources on jazz and Duke Ellington, and to download the 2024 JAM poster featuring Duke Ellington, you can visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Jazz can be interpreted by so many different instruments. And, there are teachers who specialize in jazz who can help you learn and grow in the genre. 



Ready to take your first jazz lesson?  When completing your instrument profile to find a Forte teacher, select Jazz as a genre that interests you.

Already have a Forte student account? You can update your preferred genres at any time! Just click "Find a teacher" at the top right of your Forte Learning Hub and then edit the answers within your instrument profile.