Cardiff & Rhondda Songwriting Project

July 19, 2022

At NYJO, we are so lucky to be able to work with a brilliant team of Widening Access partners across the country. Our Widening Access programme allows us to work with regional Hubs and Music Services to develop bespoke projects that will best serve the needs and ambitions of young people within their communities. In Spring 2022, we were delighted to work with Cardiff and Vale Music Services and Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama on a songwriting project inspired by our touring programme, ‘Amy Winehouse: A Celebration of her Life & Music’.

This project was designed to support young people living in Cardiff and Rhondda to gain new skills and confidence in performance, and new experiences in leadership and collaborative approaches to composition. Over a six-week period, young musicians from local schools and bands got the chance to work alongside the brilliant John K. Miles to compose and create a performance that featured before NYJO’s Amy Winehouse gig at RWCMD.

RWCMD student Siobhan, who supported the delivery of the project, wrote, “teenagers and particularly teenage girls develop a lot of inhibitions around performing and singing in front of their peers and so to engage them in the project […] seemed really incredible to me”. David Miller from Cardiff and Vale Music Service, whose Youth Jazz Orchestra took part in the programme, also noticed the development of the participants over the weeks;

The students grew to trust the tutors, and by the time of the performance many of them were willing to perform solo and not just as part of the larger group. […] this project has really helped them come together as a team for the first time and feel like being in the band is something of which they can be proud.

David Miller, Director at CAVMS


It was also such a privilege to see the young musicians recognise this growth in themselves and celebrate this confidence in their abilities! One young person who took part wrote, “I think I am definitely more confident singing because before I wouldn’t sing in-front of my class or anybody except from my family and I was too scared of how people judged me or if they thought I was bad at singing, when I really had nothing to worry about because I love my voice now”. We are so proud of the talent, commitment, and enthusiasm shown by all the young musicians involved in this project.

We are delighted to be working in Cardiff again in 2023 on a project focused around our recent tour with Tony Kofi! Monk at Town Hall is a seminal large ensemble recording, released in 1959. Under the direction of Tony Kofi, NYJO celebrated this powerful work with a stellar ensemble of emerging UK talent. Across March 2023, experienced and newer musicians from four groups across Cardiff and Rhondda will have the chance to explore improvisation, using Monk’s work as a starting-point.

We couldn’t do this work nationally without the dedication of all our Widening Access partners, who work so hard to engage with and celebrate the young people across their communities. Kevin Price, Deputy Director of Music at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, recently reflected on the benefits of this form of partnership working;

Against a backdrop of declining instrumental provision (quality and quantity), we aim to make a bold stepchange in our ambition to provide engagement in music and theatre across Wales and to work collaboratively to ensure a thriving ecology for these art forms, which addresses poverty and social exclusion, and which ensures that everyone is able to access the arts, whilst also discovering and nurturing the next generations of brilliant professional artists and providing strong, financially accessible pathways for development. Our formalised and systematic jazz approach – made possible by developing our NYJO strategic partnership – will produce a replicable cycle, all focussed on learning by doing, for young musicians.

Kevin Price, Deputy Director of Music at RWCMD


Socially engaged, exciting, accessible work is at the heart of all our Widening Access projects. If you work for a Hub or Music Service and reading this has sparked your interest in learning more about ‘Widening Access’ and how to get involved, then we’d love you to get in touch today!

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Anna, NYJO Learning Widening Access participant

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Oscar, NYJO Under 18s

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Leah-Anais, NYJO Under 18s

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