Teaching Democracy Through Jazz, Perfecting Party Playlists
The online magazine Ozy covers people, places and trends on the horizon. Co-founder Carlos Watson joins All Things Considered regularly to tell us about the site's latest feature stories.
This week, Watson tells host Arun Rath about a teacher using jazz to educate young students about democracy and a site that could spruce up the playlist for New Year's Eve parties this year.
ARUN RATH, HOST:
It's time now for The New and The Next.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
RATH: Carlos Watson is the co-founder of the online magazine Ozy. Each week, he joins us to talk about what's new and what's next. Welcome back, Carlos.
CARLOS WATSON: Arun, good to be with you. And happy holidays to you and all the listeners.
RATH: Happy holidays to you too. So, you know I love jazz, and you have a piece this week about a teacher who's using jazz to teach democracy. Can you explain that?
WATSON: So, Dr. Wes Watkins grew up in Oakland. There was good music all around him, but he was never a musician himself, made his way to Stanford and Oxford, ultimately got a Ph.D. in music education. And along the way, Arun, he realized that both the structure and the improv nature of jazz was not dissimilar from democracy and that in fact you needed both.
DR. WES WATKINS: It's the way that we interact with each other that makes the music good or not and makes the democracy good or not. And it's about this magic balance, I think, that jazz musicians have the ability to balance individual freedom and what's best for the group, which I think is a struggle for any democracy.
WATSON: And he realized that there was an opportunity to teach junior high school and elementary school students, who normally got bored at talk of things like democracy, more about it by using principles of jazz. And so he's done that in an incredibly successful way in a number of schools in the Bay Area, and particularly in Oakland, and is continuing to grow it.
RATH: Yeah. You know, if anybody's ever actually tried to play the music, to actually do that - to integrate and have your own voice - it does make sense when you think about it.
WATSON: He has the students role play a little bit or sometimes he will show them professionals performing and kind of weave in those concepts. And ultimately it allows them to understand qualities of dissent, of working together, of allowing the minorities sometimes to standout. And it's been an incredible vehicle for students understanding and getting more excited, honestly, about the issue of democracy.
RATH: Finally, you know, a lot of people are going to be planning New Year's Eve parties right about now, and, you know, you either stress out about the food or about the music. At least on the second one of those two, there's some help for that you've been writing about.
WATSON: So there's this wonderful new site called Mixify that just launched about a year ago. Not surprisingly, like many good party things, it started in Brooklyn. The cool thing about Mixify is that you log on and, there, famous DJs from around the word are allowing live streams of their performances. So they may be in a club in New York, but you could stream from the website their music and even their performance. You could put it onto a screen, in your home, in another club. And that way, you not only get to kind of enjoy the party remotely, but you get access to the coolest music. And whether you want it for a full-on party or whether you just want to exercise to their music, it's a very cool way to expand the party, if you will, to take the party global.
RATH: And I guess these DJs feel comfortable enough that they're not worried about losing people in the clubs.
WATSON: Not at all. In fact, in a lot of cases, whether you're kind of one of the big name acts, like Crystal Method, or if you've heard of the Adventure Club, which is one of the very cool DJ duos out there, in some ways, you're kind of expanding your brand. You're getting people who normally wouldn't get access to you because they're not in New York, L.A., London, Ibiza or other places to get a chance to taste what you're doing.
And in some cases, Arun, what they're doing is the clubs - a local club - might actually strike a deal with these DJs and agree to have a remote DJ, if you will, and will actually pay them. So for some of these DJs, there's also some commercial upside if this goes well.
RATH: Nice. So there could be a holographic DJ coming soon to a small town near you.
WATSON: Hey, I think ALL THINGS CONSIDERED needs a little remote party and, you know, make it a global holiday gathering.
RATH: Carlos Watson is the co-founder of the online magazine Ozy. You could explore all the stories we talk about at npr.org/newandnext. Carlos, thanks again.
WATSON: Arun, always good to be with you. Looking forward to wrapping up 2013.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.