Syncopated Success
STUDENTS | June 27, 2020
Syncopated Success

A Lincoln Park High School Student Shares Her Acclaimed Jazz Documentary


With dreams of appearing on Broadway one day, Lola F. knew she wanted her History Fair project to explore some facet of the arts and entertainment industry. As a new Chicago resident, the rising senior at Lincoln Park High School decided to learn more about the city’s history by immersing herself into one of its quintessential genres of music: jazz. Her many, many weeks of research, interviews, and video editing culminated in a documentary exploring the role of jazz in breaking down cultural barriers. It advanced all the way to the National History Day National Contest, which Lola calls an unexpected highlight of her memorable first year in Chicago. 

“I could not have imagined a crazier year to move to a new city, but I am so grateful that I was able to participate in such a great experience,” she said. “I am honored to know that my documentary is part of a History Fair that will be remembered forever.” 

Even though she had never created a documentary before, Lola chose film as her medium because it reflected her own preferences as a visual learner. It also allowed her to incorporate jazz music directly into her project. The backbone of her documentary is an exploration of the dichotomy between the past and the present through the lens of music. For example, it opens with footage of Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong, explaining that while today their performance would simply be seen as two legends together on stage, it was a more divisive pairing back in the late 1950s. 

“I think it’s such a wonderful thing to be able to show the process behind the progress,” she said. “Jazz is such a rich and beautiful genre that had a hand in this process by diversifying popular music and breaking down established stereotypes.” 

Lola asserts that the most important part of filmmaking is making something that she would want to watch if it had been created by someone else. This started with choosing a topic that she was passionate about and then taking her time to make sure each section was well-researched and thoroughly edited. It also meant being creative. Since she wasn’t able to hold any interviews in-person, she ended up filming her cellphone as she conducted a virtual interview with Chicago-based trumpet player Marques Carroll. 

Beyond the accolades, she knows that creating her first documentary has taught her skills that she’ll be able to use on other projects in the future. Hours and hours of sitting in front of her computer figuring out how to add voice overs and combine her music and images correctly will come in handy as she plans to make video auditions for performing arts colleges next year. For the time being, she’s just happy to have a keepsake that will always remind her of the most unpredictable year of her life. 

“While the year wasn’t always easy, I learned not to stress about things that were outside my control,” she said. “If you love what you’re doing, you’re going to love the finished product.”