All Jazzed Up

All Jazzed Up

Musician Ashli Christoval — who will become Jazzy Ash when she performs with her band, The Leaping Lizards, on the Walton Arts Center stage on March 27 — discovered early on the power of music for children. The talented artist grew up with a mother from New Orleans, a dad from Trinidad and a house filled with music that ran the gamut of genres.

“As a mom and a teacher, I’ve seen it on both ends,” says Christoval. She has a degree in early childhood education, taught in primary schools and homeschooled her two sons for a time. “My kids are lucky enough to be in a district with music education. It’s only once a week, but that’s still more than some kids are getting. As a musician, that’s the way I communicate. When I taught primary education, I realized my teaching style always included arts and music.”

Christoval decided to harness the power of music education when she created Leaping Lizards Music. Jazzy Ash and her band are now on their fourth album and travel the country performing family-friendly concerts that feature a wide variety of musical styles, while emphasizing jazz.

“Jazz history is American history,” says Christoval. “It’s our history. My family is from New Orleans, as far back as seven generations, so it’s a part of who I am. When I started doing kids’ music, I found that there was this big gap — people weren’t exploring jazz for kids. I write in a jazz style but also incorporate traditional jazz tunes and songs and introduce kids to jazz artists who are American treasures that we should all know about.”

Christoval points out that music is an effective tool when teaching tough topics.

“Sometimes the most truthful information about the time period is the music that was written at the time,” she says. “The time period when jazz was born was a difficult time to talk about — the end of slavery and the beginning of segregation and Jim Crow laws. Teachers and parents have been very grateful that we were able to present music as a subject matter of the time period, because it’s really difficult for teachers to talk about this kind of thing. It’s not a part of their background. But this allows them to introduce it with some song and playfulness. It’s developmentally appropriate and comes across in a way for them to receive it.”

But lest you think the word “educational” is synonymous with “boring,” Jazzy Ash and the Leaping Lizards’ performances are anything but. The band’s concerts tend to leave adults and children alike dancing in the aisles.

“I think what we do in our shows is give permission,” she says. “When we think of dancing and yelling back and singing, we think of rock or rap shows. But when jazz first came out, it was a ruckus.”



Jazzy Ash and the Leaping Lizards

WHEN — 6 p.m. March 27

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $9-$15

INFO — 443-5600

Categories: Family Friendly