In this lesson, students will learn the history and culture of jazz music in New Orleans and Cuba from the perspective of the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band from the award winning feature film A Tuba to Cuba. Students will gain an understanding of the ancestry and roots tied to jazz music’s lineage. They will also gain an appreciation for how this history influences musical culture from generation to generation. Then students will have the choice to sing “El Manicero” or design a movie poster depicting the main ideas from the film.
- Students will be able to describe the history of jazz music in New Orleans and its connection to Cuban roots.
- Students will be able to identify the differences in cultural influences of jazz music and the implications for cultural identity.
- Students will be able to describe the traditions connected to generational values of music.
- Students will be able to sing “El Manicero” or design a movie poster depicting main ideas.
National Core Arts Standards
Common Core State Standards
ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Teachers should review the media resources in the lesson, including watching the film A Tuba to Cuba prior to teaching. Disclaimer: A Tuba to Cuba is a music documentary rated PG-13. To understand film ratings, please read more here.
- PRESENTATION: A Tuba to Cuba
- MEDIA: A Tuba To Cuba | Soundtrack: A Tuba to Cuba | “El Manicero” | “Peanut Vendor” (El Manisero)
- HANDOUTS: Reflection
- LYRICS: “El Manicero”
- MATERIALS: Poster board, construction paper, writing utensils, or design software (Google Slides, Google Drawing, Adobe, etc.)
- Display slide 3 of the presentation A Tuba to Cuba: “El Manicero” for icebreaker/in order to build background knowledge. Ask students to analyze the photograph. Ask: What genre of music might this band be playing? How can you infer that? Call on select students to share their thoughts. Gauge student understanding. Ask students: What do you know about jazz music? Where do you think jazz music originated from or with whom may it be a popular genre of music? Have students share their answers.
- Tell students that the photographs above are from the documentary film A Tuba to Cuba, featuring the famous Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans on a trip to Cuba, where they visited to learn more about the roots of jazz, as it originated in Cuba. Describe to students the importance of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band visiting Cuba, as it offered more insight into the roots of jazz history and culture, passed down from generation to generation, tracing back to African ancestry and the civil rights era. The Cuban community celebrates their own unique style of jazz, specific to their heritage and African ancestry.
- Explain to students that jazz is a type of music that has been passed down from generation to generation, honoring tradition and family and cultural values, and is a very important part of musical culture in New Orleans and Cuban communities.
- Watch the film A Tuba to Cuba in its entirety. As they watch, ask students to familiarize themselves with key instruments, rhythms, members of Preservation Hall Jazz Band and musicians of Cuba.
- Have students observe the inspiration of the film and ask: What is the importance and influence of this documentary, and from which perspective is it being told? Explain to students that the documentary is being told from the perspective of Ben Jaffe from Preservation Hall Jazz Band. He describes the importance of New Orleans as a “magical and mystical” place with rich history, and the importance of understanding Cuba and the impact its culture and history has had on the music of New Orleans, where jazz was born.
- Play the performance from the film at [00:31-3:10] to familiarize students with the musical influence and key members of Preservation Hall Jazz Band and musicians of Cuba. Later in the film, Jaffe describes jazz music as “the bridge that connected everyone”. Show the quote on slide 4 and have students reflect on the statement. Share with students how at the time that Preservation Hall and jazz music were becoming popular, it was the era of the civil rights movement, when segregation was occurring in the South. Explain how jazz music was a popular genre that originated in New Orleans as the community would use the music in times of worship, celebration, mourning, and more.
- Display slide 5 of the presentation and share with students how the Cuban community celebrates their own unique style of jazz, specific to their heritage and African ancestry. Play the film from [10:57-13:09] as the band describes the spiritual influence Cuban jazz has, as it is unique to their culture, but has also inspired New Orleans jazz music. Describe how the band sees Cuban jazz music as an integral and highly important culture to understand and experience, as the music is a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation.
- Divide students into groups. Have students discuss the question: In your experience, has there been any evidence of tradition that’s been passed down from generation to generation in your own family? Examples of tradition may include storytelling, gift giving, song and dance, cooking, morals, etc. Allow students time to discuss together before sharing out with the group.
- Play the segment of the film at [1:06:22-1:07:40] that describes the relation of jazz music in Cuba and New Orleans with African ancestry. Watch the clip and reflect with students by asking the following questions: What importance does history play in jazz music? How does understanding history help us understand the background of jazz music? Describe how the Cuban jazz culture influences the New Orleans jazz culture, as the music is used to make a connection to Africa, Cuba, and New Orleans.
- Choose from one of the following options to incorporate student learning from the film A Tuba to Cuba:
Option 1: Music, Theater, Chorus, Band, General Classroom
Have students listen to and learn Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s rendition of the song “El Manicero” or Billie and De De Pierce and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band rendition of “Peanut Vendor” (El Manisero). One of the most famous pieces created by Cuban musician Moisés Simons, “El Manicero” (“The Peanut Vendor” in English) is arguably the most famous piece of Cuban music. Share Lyrics: “El Manicero” with students. With historical ties to Central and West Africa, the song has over 160 different recorded versions. Have students learn the song and perform as an ensemble. Ask students: What have we learned about the significance of musical history and how music can be passed down from generation to generation?
Option 2: English & Literature, History, or General Classroom
Have students create a movie poster for the film using design software (Google Slides, Google Drawing, Adobe, etc.) or poster board materials to demonstrate understanding of the film’s main ideas around the influence of jazz on culture, tradition, and history. Students’ movie posters should include graphics and ideas relevant to the film. Display the movie posters around the room. Invite other classes to engage in a gallery walk of the movie posters while listening to Soundtrack: A Tuba to Cuba. Students should be able to express the main topics and themes represented in their works.
- Assess student knowledge and understanding of jazz culture in New Orleans and Cuba with a Reflection. Ask students to reflect and answer the following question in writing: Why is jazz music so important in both New Orleans and Cuba? How are the traditions and history of jazz music celebrated in each community? How are they similar and different?
Herrington, T.G. (Director), Clinch, D. (Director). (2018). A Tuba to Cuba [Film]. Nom De Guerre Films; Setlife Films.
Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.
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Amanda Stewart, Digital Curriculum Developer
JoDee Scissors, Content Producer