Each year in February — Black History Month — and continuing in March, Jazzlinks brings songs and stories that explore the history and culture of African Americans to high school classrooms throughout Sarasota County. In 2021 the presentations were virtual due to the coronavirus. They featured videos of musical performances by WBTT artists and interactive discussions with cast members and students. In 2022, schools had the option of hosting an in-person performance or watching a video presentation followed by an interactive discussion via Zoom.

Grants are available to classroom teachers who want to have the lively Jazzlinks program come to their school. Click here to learn more at EdExploreSRQ, where learning comes to life!

Jazzlinks jazz dance number

(ABOVE) From the Harlem Renaissance to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond, Jazzlinks performers bring pivotal chapters of African American history off the pages of books and into high school classrooms and auditoriums.

What is Jazzlinks?

Jazzlinks is an integrated arts experience illustrating the role of African Americans in U.S. history through music and theatre. Actors visit classrooms, become the iconic figures in Black history and culture, and share their stories — including instances of discrimination they encountered in spite of their fame. They also respond (in character) to questions from students. A culminating performance brings the full ensemble back to each school, featuring a vibrant show of music, dance, and poetry.

Jazzlinks Partners and Sponsors

What organizations make Jazzlinks possible?

Jazzlinks was developed through a collaboration of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, The Jazz Club of Sarasota, and Sarasota County Schools. The program is sponsored by the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Arts & Culture.

Does Jazzlinks meet Florida’s state education standards?

Each school year, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s Director of Education and Artistic Associate Jim Weaver works with Sarasota County Schools curriculum specialists to prepare the content for 11th grade students and ensure that it meets Florida’s state education standards, focusing on "document-based questions," an approach that requires students to use their own knowledge and several historical sources to develop an essay or series of short-answer questions.

What are the historical events covered?

Jazzlinks’ themes have included the Harlem Renaissance — the flowering of African American art, music and literature in the early 20th century, and the Civil Rights Movement — the fight for social justice and equality for Black Americans in the mid- to late-20th century. Additional themes will be developed and presented in future years.

What are the benefits of Jazzlinks?

The benefits of integrated arts experiences have been well-proven — higher achievement occurs because students become more engaged in their learning and retain the content longer. In addition, Jazzlinks brings arts instruction and a performance to some students who haven’t participated in the arts since sixth grade. Students also gain unique insight into the African American experience, which isn’t typically covered in the traditional curriculum.

Are there corresponding classroom materials?

Teaching materials, prepared by curriculum specialists, are available to help illuminate the struggles and triumphs of African Americans. For more information about the curriculum materials or to arrange for Jazzlinks performers to appear in your school, contact Jim Weaver at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Video Excerpt from Jazzlinks 2022


Photo Gallery

Video by James Berry

Photos by Sorcha Augustine