Meeting Points | Beth Ismay

July 20, 2022

Meeting Points

Words by Beth Ismay, NYJO Learning Coordinator 

One of the key threads that runs through all of our Learning projects is an interest in bringing people together, who may otherwise never have met, to share and create as a collective.  

When people enter the room to take part in a NYJO project, they obviously bring themselves with them! A strange thing to say, but when you join in with an arts session for the first time, all of your life experiences naturally come into the room with you. Learning projects interest me the most when they celebrate the joyful opportunities for community-forging and sharing that this can present.  

Our new Community Choir clearly demonstrates this way of thinking, and is a project that I am particularly passionate about. The hope is that people from across Woolwich will be able to join us at the Clockhouse to experience all of the wonderful health and social benefits that can come from singing together. This choir will be completely intergenerational – welcoming all ages from primary school upwards, and will give its members the opportunity to enjoy some good food afterwards! Projects like this enable people to make connections across their community, and really centre the importance of sharing; they bring people together to share music, to share food, and to share conversation with those who ordinarily they may never have crossed paths with. 

Another great example of this is our work through the Animate programme. In partnership with SoundSkool, we are introducing young people, who have previously primarily been interested in music technology, to traditional jazz instrumentation and composition. This project will continue into September 2022, as these SoundSkool students come along to our Saturday Learning centre to get the chance to work together with live jazz musicians. The potential for projects like this is really exciting; they celebrate the interests and knowledge that young musicians bring into the room with them, whilst also allowing them to enjoy the experience of creating something unexpected and new.  

More exciting upcoming partnerships (further information on this dropping soon…) will continue allowing the Animate programme to develop, introducing more young people to music-making opportunities that they may previously have never considered open to them. In this way, bringing jazz to people in unexpected ways and places is always a really lovely part of my job!  

Our NYJO Jazz Messengers Schools’ Tours are a great example of how we do this work. Led by the brilliant FLOetic Lara, a small band of NYJO musicians have joined-up for the first time to explore how jazz intersects closely with other forms of music. This band is touring secondary schools across Greenwich in July with a performance that shows how jazz is directly relevant to the music that young people listen to on a day-to-day basis. Many teenagers encounter live jazz music for the first time through programmes like this, and we work really hard across the borough to not only create these first-access points but also to support progression and encourage take-up of one-to-one instrumental tuition. First access is always exciting but (admittedly in a less immediately obvious way!) so is supporting sustained engagement and the opportunity for young people to carry their musical learning further.  

As shown by initiatives like these, the point where jazz intersects and fuses with other genres, such as electronic music, funk, hip-hop, and soul, continues to be the point where some of the most brilliant music is made today. It’s great to be able to celebrate this, both through the work that we do with these projects, and also through the artists that we engage – in particular the amazing Blue Lab Beats, who are leading our Summer Lab project to encourage young musicians to explore these opportunities for intersection with electronic music and ‘traditional’ instrumentation.  

For me, this where my love for the work that we do comes from: jazz meeting other genres; teenagers meeting live music; members of the same community meeting each other for the first time to sing as-one. All of these opportunities that music can provide for people to share in something together are what help me to love coming into work every morning! I really hope we’ll get to see you at one of our projects soon. 

More from NYJO

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NYJO Learning: Summer Lab

This Summer, NYJO Learning is teaming up with Blue Lab Beats for a very special Summer Lab focused on Jazz & Electronics. Read all about the project and how to apply. 

NYJO & Tony Kofi: Monk at Town Hall

The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall is Monk’s seminal large ensemble recording, released in 1959. Under the direction of Tony Kofi, NYJO celebrates this ground-breaking work.

Quote 1 (Jazzwise)

"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

Quote 2 (Lucy-Anne)

“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 Singer

Quote 3 (Academy)

"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 Student

Quote 4 (Emma)

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Emma Rawicz, NYJO Musician

Quote 5 (Sam)

"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 (Animate project)

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