Activities on Louis Armstrong the Trumpet Player

Wynton Marsalis said of Louis Armstrong the trumpet player: "Through his clear, warm sound, unbelievable sense of swing, perfect grasp of harmony and supremely intelligent and melodic improvisations, he taught us all to play jazz." Teach students about Louis Armstrong to broaden their knowledge of influential musical artists or as part of Black History Month. The level of complexity of the lessons will depend on the age of your students.

  1. Music in the Classroom

    • Music in the classroom helps students to relax. You can get them to sit quietly and listen to the music of Louis Armstrong or you can play it quietly in the background while they are working. Playing his music will help students to recognize his signature style and grasp the subtleties of jazz and swing. Discuss the different musical genres. Ask students to share their opinions on jazz, scat and swing. Discuss Armstrong's particular style. Show movies and video clips of Armstrong playing so that he becomes an easily recognizable figure. Discuss Armstrong's "scat" style of singing and how it influenced modern music. Play the song "Heebie Jeebies" so that students can hear an example of Armstrong's scat. Ask students to find examples of scat in music from their own collections.


    • Review Armstrong's personal history. Discuss with the class Armstrong's roots and how he came to be a trumpet player. Talk about his influences and major musical achievements. You can get students to draw a time line of Louis Armstrong's life or give them a quiz on his history. Older students can write a paper on how Armstrong influenced the sociopolitical aspects of the society that he lived in. Students should discuss the civil rights movement that was taking place at the time and the influence artists like Armstrong had on its outcome. Play a game based on the Louis Armstrong lesson plan. Divide the class into groups. Each group must answer a series of questions. You can ask questions based on Armstrong's history, you can play songs and get the groups to identify them or you can ask members of the group to hum songs which the others must identify.

    Art Activities

    • Play "What a Wonderful World" for students and discuss the song's lyrics. Ask students to draw or paint a picture of the world that they think Armstrong was singing about. Older students can put together a short presentation of photographs, pictures and videos that make the world "wonderful" for them. Students can write poems about things in their lives which make the world a wonderful place to live. Musical students can play Armstrong's songs on an instrument of their choosing while the other students can try their hand at scat singing. Take the students to jazz concerts that feature the music of Louis Armstrong. After the concert, students can write a paragraph describing the music they have heard and whether they like it or not.

    Swing Dancing

    • The music of Louis Armstrong was accompanied by a series of dance styles including the jive and the swing. Get the students to stand in rows and teach them the basic steps of the dances. Get them to partner up and try to dance together. They can watch movies or music videos to get a better idea of what the dances entail. You can have a traditional jazz party where the students can participate by dancing with their partners. You can also have a competition for the best dancers or best dressed if they dress in outfits from the jazz era.

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