Our mission is simply this: By using amazing live music to open hearts and minds to the message, our program is designed to provide a foundation for peaceful living, aimed at curbing negative behaviors like bullying, prejudice, hatred, and violence.

What does music have to do with attitudes toward people? On the surface, maybe nothing. However, exploring new musical genres or even just new songs can be fun… our musical world can grow. That same connection can be true of people; when we open ourselves up to meeting new or different people, our world grows bigger.

Building Bridges with Music offers a fun and uniquely effective program that is designed to address the root causes of bullying and help foster civility and respect in both schools and the workplace. This program features the Jeff Haas Ensemble, a Michigan-based, multi-cultural quintet of world-class jazz musicians. The program utilizes original live music – a blend of jazz, ethnic and classical music traditions – by Michigan-based composer/musician Jeff Haas. Haas and the other musicians forge parallels between keeping an open mind about music and keeping an open mind about people. Haas’ music serves as an excellent springboard for discussion about overcoming attitudinal barriers that, if left unaddressed, can impair growth and lead to prejudice, hatred and violence.

 

Jeff and his quintet is made up of some of the finest and most experienced jazz musicians in the Midwest including saxophone and flute player Laurie Sears, trumpeter Chris Lawrence, renowned bassist Marion Hayden and drummer Sean Dobbins. All of these musicians have a documented lifelong commitment to educational outreach. During the programs, each of them takes an opportunity to share personal stories about the impact that prejudice, hatred and violence have had in their lives.

 

In late 1994, Jeff Haas was working on a commissioned project with a group of Detroit musicians, including legendary jazz trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, and was looking for rehearsal space. Because of the limited or non-existent music programs in many Detroit public schools, it occurred to Jeff that the public schools in the Detroit area might be receptive to hosting rehearsals that were open for the students to observe. He approached three or four inner city schools and all were very receptive to the idea. As this project evolved over the next four months, so did the interaction with the kids.
Jeff began to realize that like most kids, the Detroit public school students loved music and were a very receptive audience. Many of these schools were comprised of predominantly African American students; they were curious about the diverse cultures of the band members. Jeff answered questions like: ‘How did you meet one another?’ ‘Do you get along?’ ‘Where did you learn to play your instruments?’ ‘Do the other band members like to play your music?’ Jeff was off and running… his overactive mind working on a plan to take the band into schools with a program using music as a springboard to discuss topics like diversity, respect and a strong anti-bullying message. Fast forward ten years… Building Bridges with Music has taken music and its anti-bullying message to more than 50,000 students in over 600 schools!

 

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