Community Choir: One year on

March 26, 2024

A little over a year ago, we partnered with Age UK to run our Community Choir at their Greenwich centre, in Sherard Road. The group was designed to provide a space for people in our local community to sing together, make new friends, increase their confidence, and learn new skills. Everyone over the age of 50 who feels that they could benefit from the joys of singing is welcome to join.

Being the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, we don’t often get the chance to extend the social and emotional benefits of music-making to older people, who are regularly overlooked in our society, especially when it comes to social services provision. This project has been a fantastic opportunity to further embed ourselves in the local area surrounding our home at Woolwich Works and extend our offer beyond its usual reach, while also providing an opportunity for NYJO musicians to gain experience running a project in a completely new setting.

Feedback from participants has been incredibly rewarding. A year on, most choir members have reported feeling more confident in their musical skills and working as a group.

I have enjoyed meeting lots of new lovely people and meeting the young musicians who lead us, plus tea and cakes and biscuits! It is like a big family.

I am a lot more confident, less self-conscious, and less anxious.

Community choir members



In Summer 2023, the group performed at the Greenwich Carers Centre, in Charlton House, as part of their large event in celebration of Carers’ Week.



Since October last year, the Sherard Road Songbirds (as the group decided to call themselves) has been led by four NYJO musicians – Daisy Houlder, Myra Brownbridge, Amelia Wilding, and Cal Herron – who have been running the weekly sessions at Age UK Greenwich, gaining important skills as project-leaders in a community setting that is quite different to our usual offer.

I wanted to widen my teaching experience age-wise as I’ve always worked with younger people. Working with older people has been a great learning curve for me.

Amelia Wilding, NYJO Emerging Professional


This being their first experience running a project of this kind, it was really important to us to ensure the NYJO musicians involved were supported in their development as project-leads. We wanted to ensure they had the space to build their own approach to the challenge, while allowing choir members to give them constructive feedback that would help adapt the way sessions are run to their particular needs.

It really has been a great experience which I’m grateful for, and to get to know the participants and become friends with them has been lovely.

Cal Herron, NYJO Emerging Professional



Music is a powerful way to connect people. Because it doesn’t involve an instrument beyond our own vocal chords, singing is an especially good way to involve people who might not have seen themselves as “musical” before. The tangential benefits of being part of the Sherard Road Songbirds choir really come to life in the members’ own words:

Two months after my wife died I joined the choir. Some songs cheer me up and some songs make me cry. But in any case both types give me relief.

Choir is something that I really look forward to. It gives me time out. It helps me to destress. It’s a therapy session. It makes me feel free. I leave feeling very happy.

Since I started singing in February, I have noticed a great difference in my lung capacity/breathing and I feel alive. My concentration and memory has also improved. I’m not so forgetful and can only put it down to singing. The people I sing with are also friendly and warm. My emotional well being is overall great! I feel like a human being.


We look forward to continuing delivering this project and bringing some joy to Sherard Road!

Lucy-Anne (EP quote)

“Since joining NYJO, I’m so much more confident as a performer. Especially in terms of being able to entertain and keep the crowd engaged with you. It’s really nice to be able to feel that difference.” 

Lucy-Anne, NYJO Emerging Professional (Vocals)

Georgia (EP quote)

“It’s hard to just learn this music in the practice room but being immersed in the music at NYJO is a great environment to really push my playing. ” 

Georgia Ayew, NYJO Emerging Professional (Drums)

Sam Eastmond (MD quote)

"Giving them space to create whatever they wanted, without setting parameters of idiom or style helped them to conceptualise how they could bring these new concepts into their work without scaring them off, or mystifying the process."

Sam Eastmond, NYJO Educator

Jazzwise quote

"NYJO has never been conformist, never hewing to one particular line, never known for fawning replications and very deliberately these days a vehicle for new possibilities."

Jazzwise Magazine

Lydia (EP quote)

"The past year has been an absolutely incredible experience, pushing me way out of my comfort zone into playing with some of the greatest young jazz players of my generation and getting to call them my colleagues and friends has been beyond inspiring, and also an obscene amount of fun!"

Lydia Cochrane, NYJO Emerging Professional (Saxophone)

Anna (Learning national quote)

"[The NYJO residential in Cumbria] helped me to make friends with other young musicians. I enjoy playing a lot more and I’m quite proud of what I’ve accomplished. I feel more confident now. I have learnt different ways of coming up with solid melodies and also a little bit on harmonies. I think it’s been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had."

Anna, NYJO Learning Widening Access participant

Briony (Learning U18s quote)

"I’ve felt very fortunate to be surrounded by amazing musicians, and I think that the environment at NYJO – which has fostered creativity and improvisation – has allowed my confidence and musical ideas to grow."

Briony, NYJO Under 18s

Oscar (Learning U18s quote)

"I think I’ve progressed a lot in my piano-playing. NYJO has helped me to flourish and really enjoy it. I’ve really enjoyed being engrossed in a high level of playing and learning things in a hands-on-way. I also like the diversity of perspectives and abilities of all the players and teachers which enables me to try things I might not normally."

Oscar, NYJO Under 18s

Jennie (Learning U18s quote)

"NYJO has got me listening to more jazz and learning more changes. It has also helped with working as a band. I’ve really enjoyed the free jazz, learning by ear, the people, and the atmosphere."

Jennie, NYJO Under 18s

Leah-Anais (Learning U18s quote)

"I love the people at NYJO. Everyone here is so encouraging and lovely and it makes the experience worthwhile. Though I have fun I’m still learning on the way which makes me feel productive too."

Leah-Anais, NYJO Under 18s

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