This project explores the relationships between jazz and democracy. Two iconic Americans are at the heart of Let Freedom Swing: retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and musician, composer, educator and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center Wynton Marsalis, who is Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Supported by an array of other artistic luminaries, O’Connor and Marsalis teamed up for a concert at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., on the eve of President Obama’s inauguration on January 20, 2009. Justice O’Connor loves jazz (and, of course, democracy); Marsalis loves democracy (and, of course, jazz). Their conversations about the parallels between these two great American traditions provide the stimulus for the short videos and educational materials presented here.

The Rockefeller Foundation sponsored the concert, Jazz at Lincoln Center produced it and The Documentary Group created short films for it that were part of the concert. These institutions invited Teachers College, Columbia University to create a study guide to accompany the short films produced from the concert.

The videos and study guide are designed for use in social studies, humanities, and music classes in grades 6-12, although teachers may be able to adapt the materials for use with younger children. Three key themes structure the videos and study guide: “We the People,” “E Pluribus Unum” (From Many, One), and “A More Perfect Union.” Each video is about six minutes in length. The study guide contains questions for discussion, teaching activities, and additional resources. The website contains the three videos, the study guide, information about the project, and additional print, digital, and video resources.

We are excited about this unique educational project. We hope educators will find these materials useful in stimulating student interest in two of America’s greatest creative contributions—jazz and democracy.