International Jazz Day

Learn how to compose a melody in two modules led by jazz legend, James Morrison.

International Jazz Day is held on 30 April every year. In 2019, Sydney hosted the Global Concert. The Arts Unit and the creative arts curriculum advisors worked with James Morrison and the organisers of International Jazz Day to provide opportunities for students, teachers and schools to get involved with International Jazz Day.

Students of any age will learn tips and engage in activities directed by James to develop their composition skills and understanding of what makes a great melody.

Unit duration - 6 weeks
Musical concepts - duration, pitch, dynamics, timbre, structure
Resources - James Morrison International, Jazz Day videos, Vocal Ease MORE Modules 1 and 2, classroom percussion instruments, melodic instruments, recording device.

Content and outcomes


  • MUS3.1

Organising sound:

  • MUS3.2


  • MUS3.4

Sequence of learning experiences

What makes a good melody?

Watch Composing a melody with James Morrison - Lesson 1 video


Composing a melody with James Morrison - Lesson 1 video (07:19).

International Jazz Day – Composing a melody with James Morrison – Lesson 1
  • Discuss phrasing and complete various activities such as using scarves, ribbon sticks, movement, graphic notation to follow a phrase in a selected piece.
    Use a variety of styles such as jazz (including the example of 'Autumn Leaves'), folk (such as 'Waltzing Matilda'), and contemporary such as 'Over the Rainbow', 'Riptide', or 'Chandelier'.
  • How do composers create a melody?
    Watch Composing a melody with James Morrison - Lesson 2
    Explore call and response using rhythm.
    Start with the example of box conversations from Where the Strange Creatures Roam from Vocal Ease MORE Modules 1 and 2.
    Move on to whole class, then pair, then individual rhythmic call and response in this same context.
    Further expand this by using the same call and response techniques using the C major pentatonic scale (C, D, E, G, A).


Composing a melody with James Morrison - Lesson 2 video (06:02).

International Jazz Day – Composing a melody with James Morrison – Lesson 2

  • What notes make a melody?
    Build upon the student's developing knowledge of call and response using the C major pentatonic scale to then explore the 12 bar blues through the Boogie Woogie Woogie Woogie Woogie in Vocal Ease MORE Module 1 and 2.
    Build up through body percussion to follow the chord structure, then playing the root or chord notes of each chord within the 12 bar blues.
    Improvise with the backing track using only the root (chord name) notes of each scale.
    Expand upon this by looking mathematically at the structure of the chords as are outlined in relation to this piece. Improvise using the notes within the chord.
    Repeat this process, but now add in passing notes as shown through the teaching videos to accompany the Boogie Woogie Woogie Woogie Boogie.
  • What do real-life composers do when they are composing a melody?
    Prepare some questions for James Morrison for the live interview stream on 12 November.
  • How do composers take call and response and improvisation further?
    Using Composing a melody with James Morrison - Lesson 2, explore the techniques of structure, patterns and phrasing as discussed.
    Explore further improvisation with a partner using either C major How can I tell a musical story?
    Create stories with a partner. Remember these should be short and have direction. How do they start and finish? Create a melody or even a soundscape to accompany this story.
    Reflect on the musical concepts discussed in the videos and from the K-6 Creative Arts Syllabus (2006) - duration, pitch, dynamics, structure and tone colour.
    Refine and record - see table below
  • What do I need to make my own melody?
    Create individual stories.
    Match this story with a melody.
    Perform, record and refine on whatever instrument you are comfortable with, such as a glockenspiel, recorder or trumpet.
    Do the musical phrases answer each other as suggested through Composing a melody with James Morrison - Lesson 2?
    Repeat this process until satisfied.
  • How can I improve my melody?
    Perform for the class, discuss and refine.
    Finish with a recording ready to be submitted for the competition.


  1. Are the students able to establish a solid rhythmic two-bar pattern through improvisation using call and response? Do they need extra time for preparation or are they able to improvise?
  2. Is the student able to apply to melodic concepts discussed to their rhythmic patterns to create a melody using C major pentatonic?
  3. How does the student use the 12 bar blues or other melodic techniques to assist them in their melodic improvisation and composition?
Bar 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Chord I I I I IV IV I I V IV I I
Note in C C C C C F F C C G F C C


Please note:

Syllabus outcomes and content descriptors from Creative Arts K–6 Syllabus (2006) © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2017.

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