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“The mosaic at Emlen School is one of the finest projects with which our school has ever been involved. ”

Ronnie H. Collins
Emlen School

Citywide Mosaics Immortalize John Coltrane's Jazz Genius

For the l00 students studying jazz legend John Coltrane with NetworkArts, his life story was as inspiring as his jazz legacy. They discovered that Coltrane had to conquer a serious drug habit along the long road to fame. They also learned about his lifelong quest for perfection, his constant innovation, and his relentless commitment to the technique of his craft.

The project was created to honor Coltrane on the 70th anniversary of his birth and to involve students from four different parts of the city in an exploration of his life, music, and genius. Four mosaics were created, each examining a different aspect of Coltrane's life and career. The endeavor involved over 100 students in the core group: 50 students from Palumbo and CAPA, 30 from the Coltrane Society's Memorial Garden, 20 from Strawberry Mansion Middle School, and 15 from Shaw Middle School.

Students researched Coltrane's life and listened to a history of key performances that represented the landmarks of his career. They visited with representatives from the John Coltrane Society and created drawings, sculptures, and murals in preparation for the creation of the final mosaics.

Students from South Philadelphia's Palumbo School and the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts worked with NetworkArts to create "The Coltrane Landmarks" mosaic, a work that celebrates the four main stylistic periods of Coltrane's career - hard bop, world music, his great quartet, and free jazz.

NetworkArts students at the John W. Coltrane Society created a 50-foot work called "Giant Steps" that documents through album covers the progression of his career from his work with Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk to his own leadership and masterpieces.

At Shaw Middle School, "The Coltrane Quest" explores the non-jazz influences on Coltrane's music - world religion and music, math, mess, Greek philosophy, and Stravinsky's "Firebird" among other influences.

Students at Strawberry Mansion Middle School constructed the "John Coltrane Legacy," which contains tiles celebrating 22 musicians whose work has been influenced by Coltrane - including Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, Pharoah Sanders, Carlos Santana, and McCoy Tyner, among others.