In 1995, I watched a series on PBS called “Marsalis on Music.” In my mind, it did for jazz what Leonard Bernstein’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” series had done for classical music a generation before. The cultural literacy contained in Marsalis’ series inspired me as a young teacher to bring the message to my students.

My classroom became an incubator of sorts. I freely infused my lessons with the words of Langston Hughes, the music of Duke Ellington and the visual artistry of Stuart Davis and Romare Bearden. This is where I started and from this onramp journeyed simultaneously back into history and forward into the future.

The journey led me to Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. It led me to Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Guthrie and The Carter Family. I led my students to make connections of their own – no one was required to like any of the things I shared. However, what I purposely wanted to develop in my students was a framework for assessing a piece of art or music: not just liking or disliking something, but, understanding why.

Thematically, the language and vocabulary of “Peace” became a unifying theme in my teaching. The horror of 9/11 awakened in me a desire to take this notion of nurturing a contemplative attitude, a celebration of all things related to becoming a peacemaker into a central, public space on my campus. This is where the idea of large scale murals was born in me…

– Jon Hayman