Words by Beth Ismay, NYJO Learning Programmes Manager
One of the key threads that runs through all 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 Singing Group clearly demonstrates this way of thinking and is a project that I am particularly passionate about. The hope is that people from across Greenwich will be able to join us at Age UK to experience all of the wonderful health and social benefits that can come from singing together. 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 tea and cakes(!), and to share conversation with those who ordinarily they may never have crossed paths with.
Another great example of this is our work in partnership with SoundSkool. Here, 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 2023 as these SoundSkool students join young people from Cardboard Citizens to create and produce their own music, with support from NYJO instrumentalists. 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. Introducing young people to music-making opportunities that they may previously have never considered open to them. and 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 joined-up for the first time to explore how jazz intersects closely with other forms of music. This band toured secondary schools across Greenwich in July 2022 with a performance that showcased 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 – such as Blue Lab Beats, who led our Summer Lab 2022 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.