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IN MY DREAM: College Lesson Plan #1

College Lesson Plan #1, PDF version

Ostinati and Jazz Instrumentation

Back to In My Dream Introduction


  • Students will listen and identify syncopation and ostinato in current and historic African-American music.
  • Students will name instrumentation found in early American jazz music.
  • Students will identify ways that African-American jazz music has influenced our culture in the 20th and 21st centuries.
  • Students will note and outline the similarities of African-American jazz and other jazz forms.


  • In My Dream: tracks 1 (Chant), 4 (St. Louis Blues), and 5 (You Send Me), and liner notes
  • Any recording by Preservation Hall Jazz Band
  • Chalkboard with staff
  • Manuscript paper

  1. Play a selection from In My Dream (IMD) as an introduction to the class.
  2. Ask class if they have heard any recordings of historic jazz music (not the modern jazz that they might have heard).
  3. Concentrate on track 1 of IMD with special attention given to aurally noting the ostinato. Then write down the ostinato on the board in rhythmic form. Ask the students to participate in a simple ostinato, and if there are sufficient students, combine two newly composed ostinati (both simple).
  4. Identify the instrumentation found on track 4 of IMD and describe the jazz band instrumentation and turn of the 20th century New Orleans jazz. Note instrument quality as related to the specific timbre of the performance. Contrast this with track 5 of IMD - modern jazz orchestration and the professional jazz musician.
  5. Discuss the varied and colorful performers of historic jazz music (ex. Sweet Emma of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band)
  6. Discuss historic jazz and the oppression felt by the African-American community which caused a development of a completely new genre of music.
  7. Isolate sections of track 4 which contain syncopation. Verbally quiz students to assess their understanding of the meaning of syncopation and explain the significance of playing in a syncopated style in the jazz idiom.
  8. Using chalkboard and chalk staff, illustrate in notation the look of simple syncopation.
  9. Explain that early jazz musicians seldom saw syncopation written out, but common practice dictated its use.


  1. In future sessions, go deeper into the social ramifications of jazz music and jazz culture.
  2. Concentrate on the giants of jazz performance such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie.
  3. Solicit the aid of a local jazz musician to demonstrate their instrument and jazz improvisation. Perhaps have a mini recital in the classroom.

  • Administer short quiz on the aspects of jazz music discussed including aural identification of syncopation and ostinato.
  • Ask students to describe the instrumentation of a common jazz ensemble as illustrated in the recordings presented.




Reading and notating music.
Students analyze aural examples of a varied repertoire of music, representing diverse genres and cultures, by describing the uses of elements of music and expressive devices.
Students evaluate a performance, composition, arrangement, or improvisation by comparing it to similar or exemplary models.
Students identify sources of American music genres, trace the evolution of those genres, and cite well-known musicians associated with them
Students identify various roles that musicians perform, cite representative individuals who have functioned in each role, and describe their activities and achievements.

*From National Standards for Arts Education. Copyright © 1994 by Music Educators National Conference (MENC). Used by permission. The complete National Arts Standards and additional materials relating to the Standards are available from MENC -- The National Association for Music Education, 1806 Robert Fulton Drive, Reston, VA 20191