Living Jazz presents its 17th annual Martin Luther King tribute in support of free music education for Oakland Title One elementary schools

Featuring Jeanie Tracy, Kev Choice, Ms. Faye Carol, Terrie Odabi, Alvon Johnson

by Stacey Hoffman

Children in the Living Jazz Children’s Project live the music they love.

“In the Name of Love” brings our community together in the most fundamental way, across all boundaries of race, age and sexual orientation, and is an incredibly uplifting experience every time. Living Jazz never fails to invoke and embody the spirit of Dr. King as they lift the spirit of each individual present. It is life changing. It is precisely what we need here in Oakland and in the world. I wish this type of event could happen every day in every corner of the world! – John Santos, internationally acclaimed educator and percussionist.

Over the past 14 years, Living Jazz has provided FREE music education to Oakland public elementary schools serving high percentages of low-income families (Title One) through the Living Jazz Children’s Project (LJCP). Over 4,500 second and third graders have now benefited from LJCP and, as a result, have had the life changing opportunity to perform as the opening act at “In the Name of Love,” Oakland’s only non-denominational musical tribute honoring Dr. King, one of the many programs Living Jazz has produced since 1984.

This year’s MLK Musical Tribute will be on Sunday, Jan. 20, 7 p.m., at the Oakland Scottish Rite Center. The tribute will be entitled “Rhythm and Blues and the Civil Rights Movement” and will feature outstanding musicians Jeanie Tracy, Kev Choice, Ms. Faye Carol, Terrie Odabi and Alvon Johnson along with a stellar band including Kev Choice on piano, Scott Thompson on bass, Daria Shanai Johnson on drums, and Alvon Johnson on guitar.

This year’s MLK Musical Tribute will be on Sunday, Jan. 20, 7 p.m., at the Oakland Scottish Rite Center.

Also on the program will be the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir with Konda Mason, co-founder and CEO of Impact Hub Oakland, serving as mistress of ceremonies. The City of Oakland Humanitarian Award will be presented to an outstanding Oakland citizen working tirelessly to make a difference.

The MLK Tribute is the annual fundraising platform for the Living Jazz Children’s Project. Since Living Jazz provides LJCP completely free of charge to schools, it must raise the necessary funds each year through individual contributions and grant support. Living Jazz successfully expanded its reach to Howard Elementary for school year 2018-19 with a goal of expanding its reach yet again to an additional school next year.

This year’s goal will be to raise $20,000 to support LJCP. Schools that have benefited from LJCP include Glenview, Carl B. Munk, Cleveland, Fruitvale, Manzanita SEED, Howard and Garfield elementary.

“I learned about peace and love – even harmony. My favorite song was ‘Just Like Dr. King’ because I liked the tone and the beat but the most important thing was learning peace,” Arianna, a third grader, wrote about what she learned from Living Jazz.

The MLK Tribute is the annual fundraising platform for the Living Jazz Children’s Project.

Living Jazz believes that music education taught through the lens of cultural diversity, cultural respect and cultural pride is a necessary and effective antidote for the extreme division that is growing in this country and throughout the world. Living Jazz created LJCP in 2005 to not only bring music education back to diverse Oakland public elementary schools, but designed a curriculum that focuses on diverse cultural traditions and cultural history as a way to use music as a bridge to provide a joyous unifying musical experience for our youngest, most impressionable children.

THE LIVING JAZZ CHILDREN’S PROJECT (LJCP) is a full year music education and performance program that Living Jazz provides completely free of charge for Oakland public elementary schools with little or no access to the arts. LJCP consists of two components, choral and rhythm.

The choral component, under the musical direction of Terrance Kelly, provides classes in music fundamentals, ear training, vocal and rhythm skills, harmony, stage etiquette and performance techniques. Through the songs they master, students learn about the teachings of Dr. King, Jr. and the civil rights movement and work towards performing these songs for “In the Name of Love.” Having the opportunity to work towards performing at a high profile event, along with professional artists, is incredibly powerful and transforming for the children.

“We are writing to express our deepest appreciation for all your wonderful efforts to bring your music program to Carl B. Munk. Students are more enthusiastic and motivated during their school day. The program taught the students self-discipline, self reliance, character and improved focus, concentration and listening skills. You brought a personal sense of pride and social identity to our diverse community,” wrote Carl Munk Elementary teacher Manuel Labrador.

LJCP includes an adjunct rhythm component for the second half of the school year. Students learn the basic rhythmic skills that underlie all music learning, through a focus on mastering complex polyrhythms from the African Diaspora. The program exposes children to body percussion (hambone), congas, maracas, agogo bells and sticks. The rhythm component, under the direction of Javier Navarrette and Dave Flores, also culminates in a final performance, this time at an in-school assembly.

LJCP is specifically designed to support the Oakland Unified School District’s Band and Orchestra program that begins in the fourth grade by providing age-appropriate developmental music exposure and a strong rhythmic foundation while also teaching children how music is a profound vehicle for cultural identity and social change.

“In the Name of Love” is the perfect event to highlight the importance of music education for our young children and the understanding of how music is a powerful tool for social and cultural change.

For more information about “In the Name of Love” or the Living Jazz Children’s Project, please visit

Stacey Hoffman can be reached at