May is celebrated as the Music Month:
MUSIC EDUCATION, CLASSROOM RESOURCES AND MUSIC LAW
IDEAS FOR CLASSROOM USE
THE HISTORY OF JAZZ
Question: Can You Guess who this is?
A Grandson of slaves, a boy was born in a poor neighborhood of New Orleans known as the “Back of Town.” His father abandoned the family when the child was an infant, His mother became a prostitute and the boy and his sister had to live with their grandmother. Early in life he proved to be gifted for music and with three other kids he sang in the streets of New Orleans. His first gains were the coins that were thrown to them. A Jewish family, Karnofsky, who had immigrated from Lithuania to the USA had pity for the 7-year-old boy and brought him into their home. Initially given ‘work’ in the house, to feed this hungry child. There he remained and slept in this Jewish families home where, for the first time in his life he was treated with kindness and tenderness. When he went to bed, Mrs. Karnovsky sang him a Russian Lullaby that he would sing with her. Later, he learned to sing and play several Russian and Jewish songs. Over time, this boy became the adopted son of this family. The Karnofskys gave him money to buy his first musical instrument; as was the custom in the Jewish families.
They sincerely admired his musical talent. Later, when he became a professional musician and composer, he used these Jewish melodies in compositions, such as St. James Infirmary and Go Down Moses. The little black boy grew up and wrote a book about this Jewish family who had adopted him in 1907.
In memory of this family and until the end of his life, he wore a star of David and said that in this family he had learned “how to live real life and determination.”
Answer: You might recognize his name. This little boy was called Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. Louis Armstrong proudly spoke fluent Yiddish!
New Orleans-based Musicologist John Baron discusses Louis Armstrong’s relationship with the Karnofskys, a New Orleans Jewish family he worked for, and who helped him buy his first musical instrument. Interview by Neil W. Levin.