2017-2018 Nancy B. Jefferson Residency

About the Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative High School

Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School provides high quality educational programming to meet the diverse educational and social/emotional needs of court-detained youths. They strive to balance and coordinate their educational focus with the goals and objectives of the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, Cook County Juvenile Court system and Chicago Public Schools.


  • How can music be composed without the use of traditional notation?

  • What are the different parts of a musical composition and how can they be manipulated to make a complete work?

  • How does music allow for us to share our emotions, feelings, and experiences?


  • Students will learn the basic elements of music such as melody, rhythm, and accompaniment, among others.

  • Students will learn how to connect specific musical elements by using graphic notation while communicating with performers about the meaning of the graphics.

  • Classes will be divided into groups and work together to create their own, original graphic scores.

  • Students will learn how to communicate and associate their social and emotional feelings with music and graphic notation.

  • Students will learn how to analyze poetry by Chicago poets to better understand their own writing and it's significance towards creative projects.


Fifth House began this residency with the students at Nancy B. Jefferson School enrolled in Ms. Rizzo's English class. The class will work together to create an original graphic score based on the Nate Marshall poem, "The Break", as well as work individually to create graphics scores for their own poetry. Fifth House Ensemble teaching artists will break down the different parts of a musical composition including, melody, rhythm, ostinato, articulation, and extended techniques with the instruments being used for the project. Each weekly visit will focus on one of these facets and will end with the students using graphics to notate them onto their final projects. Ms. Rizzo has also obtained ukuleles for each participant to use throughout the course of the project that will allow side-by-side performance throughout the project and the final performance.


You have made me see my son in a new light.
— Parent of Nancy B. Jefferson Participant
Thank you for this program – it makes me feel a little more free.
— Participant of Nancy B. Jefferson residency


As part of their final project for this residency, students created their own Graphic Scores inspired by selected poems by Nate Marshall. Additionally, they also created their own Graphic Scores inspired by the poem, "The Break". The student composers each introduced their pieces in front of an audience of school and center administration, and parents before performing the world premiere of their composition with members of Fifth House Ensemble.

2017-2018 residency programs at the Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School were supported in part by grants from the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, and a CityArts grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.