Spotlight Classroom Musician of the Week – Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk, Jazz Pianist

Here are some ideas to explore the wonder of the great jazz virtuoso, Thelonious Monk. You’ll find biography info, a movement activity to his fabulous piece, “Stuffy Turkey,” some links, and advanced movement options!

Thelonious Monk Biography

Thelonious was born in North Carolina and moved to New York City when he was four. He was a good student and athlete and began playing the trumpet and soon after, the piano. Thelonious was considered a musical prodigy and became so accomplished, he performed in churches, theaters, clubs, and playhouses. He was known for a type of jazz music called bebop and broke lots of the musical rules in rhythm, melody, and harmony.

He was part of a group of jazz greats at the time which included Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie. Thelonious loved his family and wrote songs for his children. The songs were “Little Rootie Tootie” and “Boo Boo’s Birthday” and “Green Chimneys.” He was born in 1917 and died in 1982 at the age of 64. (Info from

Image of jazz pianist Thelonius Monk and related info to piece Stuffy Turkey.

Thelonious wrote a swinging piece called, “Stuffy Turkey.”

Movement to Stuffy Turkey (Body Awareness)

Let PreK, kindergarten, and first-grade students groove to Thelonious Monk’s jazz piece, “Stuffy Turkey.”

Thelonious Monk’s Stuffy Turkey Movement Activity

Let older students experience Thelonious Monk’s Stuffy Turkey in AABA form as they use rhythm sticks and improvise with the groove.

The original piece has been arranged into an AABA form with solo improvisation. (see below)

Advanced Movement Options

Author: lbbartolomeo

I'm a mom, wife, teacher, reader, gardener, trekkie, sci-fi fanatic, musician, dog lover, and a Christian. I hope my contributions bring some joy and happiness to your life!

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