MSJO is dedicated to creating opportunities for audiences to learn about Jazz- about the music itself as well as about its history and its profound cultural impact. Marcus Shelby's work includes curriculum design and/or consulting and teaching for music programs (all ages), artist talks in formal or alternative environments, composition, orchestration and arrangement classes for music students, educational performance program, multidisciplinary educational programs and private lessons.

“Essential to my personal and artistic goals alongside composing and performing, is creating opportunities for audiences to consider the art form of jazz as a distinctly American historic narrative. I am continually developing an approach to teaching jazz history and to exploring its capacity to create dialogue about American experiences. My approach to composing is rooted in the belief that telling African American stories through performance not only allows for a greater understanding of the
cultural experience and diverse opportunities for considering history and empowering the future, but also helps shape the future of all American performing arts. Inherent in this are opportunities for social change, for valuing culture in the discussion and for a greater overall understanding of creativity in a vibrant society.” Marcus Shelby

“In addition to the work Marcus Shelby does as a music teacher, MSJO produces other educational programming.
Click here for audio and visual information about “Harriet Tubman and Jazz.” 

Public Program: Lecture/Presentation: “Harriet Tubman and Jazz”
During the 2006 residency at Stanford University through the Committee on Black Performing Arts, Marcus Shelby further developed the oratorio and added educational programs to the project of which “Harriet Tubman and Jazz” is a component. The intent of the program is to use an innovative approach to teaching the history of jazz by engaging Harriet Tubman’s heroic story as a metaphor for the development of the music’s form. Her unique relationship to music empowered Tubman to fight for freedom, justice, and equal rights for all--the true essence of democracy. “Harriet Tubman and Jazz” includes an historical perspective on Harriet Tubman, her relationship to the history of jazz, and a live presentation of the oratorio reduced for jazz quartet and one vocalist. The lecture/presentation is 90 minutes in length and includes a demonstration of how the music was composed through use of excerpts from the oratorio, performed by the quartet and vocalist, and by incorporating examples of how Harriet Tubman’s story inspired the creation of music. Audience questions and comments are encouraged. This program is suitable for presentation is libraries, café’s, schools, arts organizations, festivals, history organizations etc.

Elementary and Highschool Educational Workshop Programs
Harriet Tubman and Jazz is a flexible curriculum appropriate for all students. The goal of the curriculum is to teach music, history, politics, and creative art by using the heroic story of Harriet Tubman as a guide. Harriet Tubman’s life is source of great inspiration and she was a model of truth and integrity. She also had a powerful relationship with music that helped her achieve many of her successes. Programs can include artist residencies for a few weeks to several months. For more information, please contact Kate Dumbleton at

Specifically, the “Harriet Tubman” commission and attendant programming will allow students to learn about Fredrick Douglass, Nat Turner, Phyllis Wheatley, John Brown, The Stono Rebellion, The Mexican-American War, The Haitian Rebellion, The Civil War, The Dread Scott Law, The Harlem Renaissance, Black Wall Street, The Civil Rights Movement, Women's Suffrage, and other aspects of American history with an emphasis on African American history, using Harriet Tubman as a symbol of freedom. The programs will also include a broad based musical analysis of the composition. Participants will to learn about the history of jazz and how it evolved through slave songs, field cries, work songs, hymns, spirituals, blues, and other cultural
musical forms. These devices will be used in the oratorio “Harriet Tubman”, and will be employed as musical examples, combined with written content to explain its function and connection to the legacy of jazz.

All of these talks can be customized for different audiences from preschool to higher education and beyond and can be presented in formal academic environments, in a performance setting or in less formal venues. The programs encourage audience participation and include listening to musical samples from program context.

Marcus Shelby is currently on the faculty of the Young Musicians Program at Berkeley University, is an adjunct instructor of Composition for Jazz Orchestra with Stanford Jazz Workshop, Stanford University and is the 2006 Resident Dialogues Fellow with the Committee on Black Performing Arts at Stanford University where he is developing several approaches to creating
curriculum to teaching the history of the American Hero Harriet Tubman using jazz composition. For more information about the Stanford Committee on Black Performing Arts and the Harriet Tubman Curriculum, see below.

Project Examples:

Jazz Talk and Listening Programs- Some topics include:
Beyond the Blues: Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (about the history of prisons, the prison industrial complex, the effects of prison industrial complex and how the Blues can be a tool to reforming the criminal justice system)
Green and Blues  (about Green Economics and Environmental Racism)
The Life of Harriet Tubman
Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement

History of Duke Ellington's Music
Women in Jazz
Adapting Historic Texts for Jazz Composition
The History of Jazz
Jazz and Film Noir

Improvisation in Life; Improvisation in the Workplace