Andrea Pizziconi has for a long time been an admirer of Big Picture Learning and their pioneering work to create and sustain innovative public schools that foster real-world learning environments for economically challenged youth around the world. Last fall, friend and co-founder of Big Picture Elliot Washor said, "Record a jazz album for us, and I’ll put together the team to create our first technology and arts-oriented charter school in Harlem, New York." It was an offer Andrea couldn’t refuse. From there, Andrea had the great fortune of enlisting Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist and composer Oriente Lopez and his fabulous musical colleagues -- Julio Botti (saxophone), Itaiguara Brandão (bass), and Mauricio Zottarelli (drums)-- to lend their talents to an album and a concert, suddenly: SCHOOL IS IN SESSION!
This album was put together to support a deep passion we all share to create schools where performance is a measure of not just what you know, but also where you have been and who you are. As you listen, you will hear musicians who have worked thousands of hours to achieve their sense of self, and who have become accountable to themselves and their community. The great jazz composer and pianist Ramsey Lewis said, “When you get to the top, don’t forget to send the elevator back down.” The musicians performing on this album “send the elevator back down” by helping our young people understand just how much dedication and mentoring it takes to really master something.
The songs chosen for this album are a tribute to great jazz musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Phyllis Hyman, who spent decades crafting their musicality even as they continued to share their talent with the public to great esteem. Like the students in our Big Picture Schools, they spent their entire careers being mentored by the great musicians who came before them. Eventually they become the mentors and masters, and sustain the next generation. Big Picture students learn in the same way and are also assessed by what they can do in real-world contexts. They are learning to live.
The proceeds of this album support a new Big Picture School in Harlem, where each student will be mentored to pursue personal interests and achieve life goals. Connecting jazz and real-world learning underscores Big Picture Learning’s philosophy—marrying inspiration and impact. Enjoy!