Kids for Coltrane Project in Education on a Mission Supreme
Posted June 19, 2011on:
Speech by Christine Termini Passarella given at the Coltrane Home on June 15, 2011
I am deeply moved standing here today. I thank Steve Fulgoni, Ravi Coltrane, Kathleen Hennessy Coltrane, and the other board members of the Friends of the Coltrane Home, but mostly I thank John Coltrane for allowing me to be part of the blissful journey to help educate children.
As an educator, I found tremendous joy creating learning environments teaching through the arts. Trane wanted to create learning environments for children, places in which they could listen to music properly….to gain knowledge and inspirational growth. But tragically his life ended in 1967…and he was not able to continue this path Until now…and here we are gathered to help fulfill John’s mission and vision, one in which he shared with his beloved wife, and respected musician in her own right Alice Coltrane. We must teach children to be prepared for the life that they desire for themselves. Educating children so that they can find their own answers is key.
My name is Christine Termini Passarella, I am an elementary school teacher and founder of the Kids for Coltrane Project in Education. The Kids for Coltrane Project is a hands on program that uses jazz to teach children about American history, civil rights, civic engagement, and team work. Children learn this through reading, writing, art and music. Nourishing their creativity, compassion and curiosity are all part of the experiences. After being introduced to John’s music on a deep level, I began to connect literacy, social studies and character education to songwriting, dance, and music appreciation. Out of this grew projects such as concerts, which the children and I created for the school environment and a beautiful outgrowth of the events was philanthropic opportunities the children could be part of. Helping the Coltrane Home move forward with their mission was one of our projects. In fact the garden you see and the refurbished fence was paid for with funds raised by my Kids for Coltrane students.
The historic Coltrane Home you see behind me is awaiting the joy that comes to children when they are feeling respected for their true essence. Philosopher and writer Joseph Campbell calls it following your bliss. John Coltrane in his journey on earth experienced this bliss…courage to be who he was born to be. He told us his story through his art form of music.
The foundation of my work has been inspired by Dr. Howard Gardner whose work comes out of Harvard University. Professor Gardner developed the Theory of Multiple Intelligences in which he tells us there are nine intelligences that exist in human beings….they include linguistic, interpersonal, musical, and more. Teaching to and respecting these intelligences have been at the root of my program.
In 2008, renowned jazz historian Nat Hentoff, writer for the Wall Street Journal and author of At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Jazz Scene and many other books noticed my work and nicknamed my students “Kids for Coltrane”.
As my very young elementary school students were touched by the music of Trane they asked me to find a way not to let them go as the school year came to a close. After receiving a powerful note from one little boy named Andrew Ortiz, asking me to find a way to keep the Kids for Coltrane students together… it became clear to me that this work was important at a higher level of consciousness, as more and more children revealed that they too wanted be Kids for Coltrane. “Please Ms. Passarella may I be A Kid for Coltrane?” I would hear time after time.
I searched for a way to make that happen. How could I offer this educational opportunity of such an edifying nature to more children so that they too could learn about creativity, courage and curiosity, in which dedication and hard work become part of their educational journey? I heard the answers in John’s music…his message of goodness rang out to me loud and clear. My students heard it too…love transcends…I had a dream in my heart and mind that it would be here in this home. I created Kids for Coltrane enrichment groups which allowed me to offer programs which were inspired by John’s music to students across grade levels.
As it would turn out, I received a call from Steve Fulgoni, President of the Friends of the Coltrane Home in which he had a request of me. Now we are uniting the mission and vision of my Kids for Coltrane Project and the Coltrane Home. Steve, Ravi and Kathleen have been tremendous supporters of my work from its inception. They have never wavered and clearly saw the good in the project and could see the exquisite connection between the education project and the plan that Alice and John wanted to bring forth.
John Coltrane was a genius. He was a musician who affected the lives of many who crossed his path literally and musically…jazz music was changed forever from his creative contributions.
The true story of American History can be heard through the roots of the blues and the transitions that take place in jazz music. Honoring the creators of this music brings a richer awareness to the African American contributions to our country. There is much to do. The dream is to have this historic building transformed into a learning museum…this sacred place in which John Coltrane wrote the music entitled A Love Supreme…A song that now stands for brotherhood, love and respect of the individual…As the Coltrane Home transforms into a learning museum you will be able to hear the birth of ideas and the joy of laughter…the sounds of young hearts grateful for the moments which help them honor the essence of who they are and help guide them on their paths. In the art of the music is a message….and The Coltrane Home will be the place where music will be heard and absorbed into the hearts, minds and souls of our children. John once said, “ I want to be a force for good,” Our coming together in his name today will insure that John’s wish comes true.
I am grateful to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for naming the Coltrane Home in Dix Hills to its 2011 list of America’s 11 most endangered historic places.