Students at Hazel Elementary School received a remarkable lessen in American music in March when jazz trumpet great, nine-time Grammy Award and Pulitzer Prize for Music winning Wynton Marsalis and members of his band arrived at the request of kindergarten student Carlos Henriquez Jr.

Carlos’ kindergarten class was celebrating Black History Month and he decided he wanted, “a double A from my teacher, Mr. Roberts.” So, the young student asked his father, Carlos Henriquez, a bassist who is a member of the band, if he would come to the school to perform some great jazz music for his classmates. Carlos Sr. mentioned what he was doing to his fellow band members, including band leader Wynton Marsalis, and they too decided to join in and put on a school-wide assembly.

The children were taught the origins of jazz music from its beginnings in New Orleans to modern jazz. Marsalis explained to the children that jazz should be thought of as American music. He told the students that although each member can play an instrument as an individual, what makes it really special is when they join together to play as a team.

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Joining Wynton Marsalis, who is also Carlos Henriquez, Jr.’s godfather, and Carlos Henriquez, Sr. were drummer Ali Jackson, a resident of West Orange for five years, and pianist Dan Nimmer. The Henriquez family has lived in West Orange for three years.

The quartet expressed their views on the importance of music instruction and appreciation for children in that they all want to share their joy and passion with young people so that it might trigger something in them. Music affects how we hear, see and feel. It is beneficial in life socially, academically and spiritually. 

“Our school made history by having this American Icon and his talented band engage and educate our children on the beauty and history of Jazz music.  Mr. Henriquez and Mr. Marsalis were extremely generous in donating their time and talent for the enjoyment of our Hazel students,” said Hazel Principal Ed Acevedo. Mr. Henriquez is extremely gracious and he and his fellow band members truly engaged our children in song and history.” 

Lou Quagliato, Supervisor of Fine Arts expressed this sentiment, “It's always a great day when influential members of the music community recognize the positive affects music has on our young learners and reserve time in their busy schedules  to interact with our children.  Having the opportunity to meet Mr. Marsalis personally and to experience his expertise first hand, not only as a performer but as an educator, was a special moment which will never be forgotten.  West Orange is truly fortunate to have these opportunities available to our children.  This is what makes the arts in this community so unique.”

When asked about his classmates might tell their families about the assembly, young Carlos said, “Maybe they will tell them it was awesome. Very awesome.”

The assembly is currently airing on TV 36 and Fios 45.