The Democracy Jam® is the key civics component of The Jazz & Democracy Project®. Think of a jazz jam session: musicians come together and engage in a musical conversation, sometimes with strangers. This is possible in part because those musicians have prepared themselves to converse in the language of jazz. The quality of any song depends on that preparation and each musicians’ ability to converse meaningfully with everyone they encounter on the bandstand.
In the same way, every Democracy Jam® is a conversation between students and local professionals, politicians or community leaders about professions or social issues that interest students. Earlier in the J&D residency, students will have identified their areas of interest, guests will send in a resume or bio, and based on that information students will prepare informed questions in advance. This ensures a focused dialogue, but like the conversational nature of jazz, students are encouraged to think of new questions at the spur of the moment in response to insights offered by Democracy Jam® guests. In this way, each Democracy Jam® is a collectively improvised conversation on democratic participation.
The Democracy Jam® has been an important part of The Jazz & Democracy Project® curriculum since it’s inception because J&D wants students to know that American democracy is alive and in process around them—just like the music on a jazz bandstand. And because democracy—like jazz—is a process, the current nature or quality of our democracy will be determined by the contributions of those who participate directly in its evolution. Therefore, J&D aims for every student to walk away from a residency knowing concrete ways that they can make a positive impact on their communities in the short term, and what preparation is needed in order to exact long term effects.