Kids for Coltrane

Andrew receiving the special  Kids for Coltrane Reaching for the Stars Award, June 2011 at the Holliswood School in Jamaica Estates, NY.

Andrew was honored for his incredible dedication to The Kids for Coltrane Project in Education.  On June 22nd, he received The Kids for Coltrane Reaching for the Stars Award.  Andrew “reached out his hand” to me at the end of second grade with an amazing letter asking me to find away to keep the kids together after they were leaving my class.  I was blessed to teach his class for two years. (It was a looped class.)  After reading his inspiring words, I created the Kids for Coltrane enrichment groups…and now we will always be part of this work.  “Thank you Andrew, you are an excellent student and citizen.”

Kids for Coltrane students Stephen and Andrew proudly holding their saxophones after receiving Certificates of Excellence for being members of the Kids for Coltrane. Both boys are founding members of  The Kids for Coltrane since first grade. They are now entering sixth grade! When an opportunity came up to join the school band…they did…and their instrument of choice was the saxophone!  Forty- nine incredible students received Kids for Coltrane Certificates of Excellence at an awards assembly during the month of June 2011.


“One thought can produce millions of vibrations…” ~ John Coltrane

Educator Christine Termini Passarella speaking with director and actor John Turturro about his new film Passione which tells the story of Naples through song. John states that this place represents many cities that have undergone hardships but the strength is in its people. The film is filled with an enormous amount of talent and spectacular music.

Passione is an amazing film that takes the audience on a historical journey of a city which experienced many challenges and rises up through the gifts of its people. Music is at the root of the expression of the townspeople from the very beginning. The title song Passione is performed by an Italian jazz musician James Senese. His mother is Italian and his dad was an African-American soldier. Although James did not know his father, he left his mother with the gift of understanding the importance of blues and jazz music which she shared with James. The power of musical expression had a profound impact on his life. James is one of the many interesting and talented personalities that we meet in this exquisite treasure.

Speech by Christine Termini Passarella given at the Coltrane Home on June 15, 2011

by Kids for Coltrane Project on Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 8:39pm

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.

Ravi Coltrane spoke  at a press conference on June 15, 2011. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is helping protect the historic home of  jazz legend John Coltrane.  The home was put on their list of  11 Most Endangered Historic Sites in America.  The Coltrane family and the not -for -profit Friends of the Coltrane Home have succeeded in saving the home from demolition.  President of the Friends of the Coltrane Home, Steve Fulgoni along with the Town of Huntington had raised almost a million dollars for this effort.  Now more must be done to restore the home into a place of beauty and create a learning museum.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation understands the urgency and significance and is asking for our help.  You can be part of this supreme effort by making a contribution.  Go to  Photo taken by me in the room  Ravi’s father, legend John Coltrane, created the masterpiece A Love Supreme.

President of the Friends of the Coltrane Home,  Steve Fulgoni,  talking to the press about the importance of the restoration effort in the space that was John Coltrane’s recording studio. Looking on is Wendy Nicholas from the National Trust for Historic  Preservation.  Wendy is the director of the Northeast office and came down from Boston for this important event. During a luncheon afterward Wendy commented to me on the value of the work that the Kids for Coltrane Project in Education is doing to keep the legacy alive.   The Friends of the Coltrane Home group is doing a tremendous job and  my students and I support their work.

Ravi Coltrane, Steve Fulgoni standing together with representatives from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and government officials from the Town of Huntington

Press conference at the Coltrane Home in Dix Hills, Long Island on June 15, 2011

New York City school teacher and founder of the Kids for Coltrane Project in Education, Christine Termini Passarella, (that’s me) speaking about the importance of the Coltrane legacy.  The Kids for Coltrane Project and the Friends of the Coltrane Home are uniting our efforts to help share John’s work and message with children all over the world.  A special thank you goes out to the Holliswood School community for their incredible support and dedication to this work.  I also want to thank Kids for Coltrane parent Lisa Halstead for sharing this day and witnessing history in the making.  Her daughter Jada along with 48 other children are part of my Kids for Coltrane Project.  On June 22nd the children will be honored for being Kids for Coltrane students at our Awards Assembly.  They will be singing High Hopes…the kids send Steve and the Coltrane family their best wishes, reminding them always to have High Hopes…we are all getting closer to seeing this dream become a reality.  

The students at the Holliswood School had wonderful mornings during our Jazz Breakfast Cafe for the past few months. Every morning during this period my second grade students piloted a breakfast program in the classroom. While having a nutritious breakfast which was prepared by the hardworking cafeteria staff, the children listened to energizing jazz and blues music. First Pic above shows children jamming with their pencil cases. It was such a pleasure watching the circle grow. The second pic shows the Queens Jazz Trail map. The Holliswood School is in Queens, NY and while learning about many of the famous jazz musicians the children were also learning about present and former gifted residents of Queens. They had the opportunity to study the Jazz Trail map during their breakfast time. Do you know that John Coltrane lived in Queens for awhile? Yes he did! He lived on Mexico Street. For further information on the Queens Jazz Trail visit the Flushing Town Hall site, and discover other famous musicians who lived in Queens.

Piloting the breakfast in the classroom program and adding the music was a nutritious way to start the school day. Our school nurse often remarked on the success of the Jazz Breakfast Cafe. She noticed how happy and at peace all the children were. Perhaps you would like to start your school day with a Jazz Breakfast Cafe. The Kids for Coltrane really enjoyed the experience!!!

Photo of Kids for Coltrane Project educator Christine Termini Passarella, and Louis Armstrong House Museum educator Jendar Marie Morales

I had the opportunity to interview educators from the Louis Armstrong House Museum at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning in New York City during the month of March. On April 7th, my students and I went on a wonderful tour of Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong’s historic home in Corona, Queens. I want to send out a thank you to the staff at the Armstrong House. They were so warm and welcoming…and very enlightening. A special thank you goes out to museum educator Ms. Jendar Marie Morales for taking time out of her schedule to be interviewed by me in March, and then giving my Kids for Coltrane students a tour of the Louis Armstrong House Museum in April. We had a great time! Check out their website, better yet plan a visit. For more ideas on jazzy things to do this month, I highly recommend the Smithsonian Institute’s site It is chock full of great ideas for Jazz Appreciation Month and all through the year. Another special thank you goes out to the JAM program manager at the Smithsonian, Ms. Joann Stevens. Joann has been very supportive of my work with the Kids for Coltrane Project over the past few years. She always sends us beautiful jazz commemorative posters when we have our Kids for Coltrane concerts. My students and I really do appreciate everyone’s thoughtfulness, and we certainly appreciate jazz!

Painting by Norman Rockwell

Ruby Bridges visits the Holliswood School. In this photo happy students stand with Principal Mrs. Ambert,  Assistant Principal Mr. Chin, Parent Coordinator Mrs. Corley, and Ms. Ruby Bridges.   Photo by their teacher, Ms. Passarella who felt it was an honor and a privilege to hear Ms. Bridges tell her incredible story of courage and determination to the children first hand. The Kids for Coltrane students gave Ms. Bridges a gift of song when they presented her with a CD of their precious voices singing an original song written in her honor. (For more on learning through music, see the songwriting page.)

On March 16, 2011 the Holliswood School had a special guest speak with the students.  Civil rights hero Ruby Bridges came in from New Orleans to present her life story to the children. Students in grades two through five were present at this unique assembly in which Ms. Bridges asked critical thinking questions engaging the audience filled with students, teachers and administrators  All of the classes prepared themselves by learning the story of her journey, and read the books she had written.  Meeting Ms. Bridges was a personal dream of mine. Every year as I teach another group of children about Ms. Bridges, I have learned something more about her life, and my understanding has grown deeper.  I always connect the history lessons learned in her story to our character education lessons. This year I decided to write a song in honor of Ms. Bridges and her teacher Ms. Henry.  My students were able to express the emotions of what they were learning about Ruby by singing what she has meant to our country. I asked musician Louis Vignapiano who is a champion of the Kids for Coltrane Project in Education to write a tune for us. After studying her life, he was moved on a deep level and wrote a touching tune that resembled the sounds in a music box.  He called it “A Child of Ours”.  It was perfect for what we were feeling about Ruby and her teacher Ms. Henry. I proceeded to write the lyrics which were connected to the lessons I taught the children about little Ruby.

In 1960, when Ruby was six years old her actions helped change the world. There was still segregation in some states in the country, and although the law had been changed through the case Brown v  Board of Education there were still some people who did not want desegregation. With the help of the Supreme Court, President Kennedy, and determined American citizens, change did in fact occur.  Ruby was one of the first African American students put into this position of change in her community.  Her family had the incredible courage to send little Ruby into a situation which was very dangerous, but they knew change must happen for justice and liberty for all.  For many months this little girl was escorted into the school building with armed United States marshals for her protection.  Ms. Bridges told the audience a white mob would scream at her every day for a year. They even had a real child’s coffin with a doll in it, and one woman showed her a rope to represent hanging. It was very hard to hear. I could not hold back the tears as she presented the story. But it was also a story of amazing hope. Her Caucasian teacher Ms. Henry stood by her. She made learning fun, and loving each day, even though for many months Ruby was alone in the school building.  Eventually the white children came back to school, and the mob went away. Some of the white families had wanted to send their children earlier but were threatened by the mob.

Today the schools in this country are desegregated and offer children equal opportunities. Ms. Bridges told the children to give each other a chance. She connected her words to those of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who wanted people to judge one another by the content of their character. Ms. Bridges spoke for two hours and told her story in details that shone a light on the harshness of racism. And she brought us to a place of hope by example. One of my students Kennedy gave her a bouquet of flowers. Kennedy who is a Haitian  American, told her dad if it wasn’t for Ruby her class which is made of many races couldn’t have been together.  Her dad told me she picked out her outfit a month before so she could look just right for meeting such a special lady. We also gave her a CD of my students who are nicknamed “the Kids for Coltrane” singing “A Child of Ours”.  Kids for Coltrane are… Kids for caring, curiosity, and creativity. It was wonderful to hear that Ms. Bridges and Ms. Henry are still great friends. They were brought back together on the Oprah Winfrey show after many years and remain very close. I want to thank my principal Mrs. Ambert for valuing my request to bring Mrs. Bridges to our school. With the support of the administration, parents, teachers and students this incredible learning experience was realized at the Holliswood School. We know that the children will always keep in mind Ruby’s words to give one another a chance. We are grateful to Ms. Ruby Bridges for making her way to our school to help our children learn a lesson that they will never forget.  For more on Ruby go to my links section and click on her official page.

By Ms. Passarella

Click on the All About link above to read a review of Mr. Hentoff’s latest gem.  I am so  pleased  to see my work also mentioned in the review!!

“Hentoff’s life-long dedication to the individualization of education in America is reflected in articles on jazz programs in schools and it is heartening to learn that at least some school children are being weaned on the music of saxophonist John Coltrane. Second-grade teacher Christine Passarella, of Holliswood School in Queens, says to Hentoff of Coltrane’s music: “(It) tells children to be who they want to be, that it is OK to be different, it is OK to feel, and that we all need to be able to express who we are in our own way to find what writer and philosopher Joseph Campbell called ‘following your bliss.'” ~From Ian Patterson’s review

I am grateful to the brilliant writer Nat Hentoff  for including  “The Kids for Coltrane Project in Education” in his newest book.  It is hot off the presses, and I am  learning from his sixty years on the scene.  I am beyond thrilled that Mr. Hentoff’s last chapter in the section entitled  Master Teachers  focuses on my work with the children. It brings me such hope for the future!!

Run, don’t walk and pick up your copy of  At The Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years On the Scene by Nat Hentoff

The “Kids for Coltrane” discovering our work is included in Nat Hentoff’s latest gem! What a  terrific uplifiting feeling!

The Kids for Coltrane students will be dancing and singing to raise the profile of jazz in American schools.

They will be joined by Louie Vig and his Debut Band, Sonny Simmons and the Cosmosamatics, and the Sean Harkness Quartet featuring Darro Sandler on drums.

The evening will be a gift of song celebrating the blues, jazz and its influence on different genres of music. During the evening the children will honor the music of John Coltrane and John Lennon.

Proceeds from this event will go to programs that promote teaching through the arts at the Holliswood School, and the Friends of the Coltrane Home non profit.

Tickets will be sold the evening of the event, and can also be obtained in advance. $3 per ticket.

A special thank you to the Jazz Foundation of America for their support in this effort.

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