My NYJO Story | Anna Baalbaki

May 2, 2024

My name is Anna, and I joined the NYJO Under 18s as a vocalist in 2021. Ever since, my love for jazz has continued to grow. We have a spectacular Music Director, Winston Clifford, who teaches the Under 18s Ensemble. Joining the group has helped grow my confidence when performing, and in myself when singing.

Before I considered pursuing my studies in music, I intended to go down the route of becoming a vet because of my fondness for animals. However, I later found out that I was certain about following my studies in music and NYJO was the first ensemble I joined.

We have had amazing opportunities to perform both in London and around the UK. Some performances I participated in were in Woolwich Works, Regent’s Park Bandstand, and the famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in the heart of London. My favourite performance would be at Ronnie Scott’s. The atmosphere and audience were incredible, which made me very grateful to perform there. It is any jazz musician’s dream to perform at such an iconic club.



Besides the outstanding performance opportunities NYJO gives, it also allows you to connect with people. I had the chance to travel up to Leicester with NYJO to meet other musicians of my age. We have chances to chat with each other, share experiences as jazz musicians and perform together.

I have connected with members of both the Under & Over 18s [NYJO’s Emerging Professionals], Guest Artists who have given us masterclasses – Fergus Quill, Ahnansé [Steam Down], Nicola Chang and was privileged to meet Prince Edward, The Duke Of Edinburgh at an Open Day, who later attended our opening set for the Tommy Blaize & NYJO Present: the Music of Ray Charles concert.

Being a vocalist in the Under 18s Ensemble helped me develop both my vocal technique and ability to sight-read. One of my main goals was to strengthen my improvisation when singing, or scatting. Being in a jazz ensemble has massively boosted my confidence and encouraged me to complete a successful scat solo. When learning a new piece, we are all given sheet music which, over time, developed my sight-reading skills, allowing me to identify time signatures, chord sequences and scales. As an Alto singer, I tend to sing in the lower range of my voice but joining the ensemble allowed me to become more comfortable singing within my higher range.



Joining NYJO has given me the chance to develop into a better musician, and grow my fondness for jazz. Before joining NYJO, I would have never considered studying jazz. But now, I will be continuing my studies of Jazz Vocals at The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and then plan to move to study for my postgraduate at Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Winston provided references to support my university application, and NYJO’s Emerging Professionals shared their experiences of different conservatoires, which I used when deciding on which one I would like to go to.

Throughout my years at university, I am hoping to keep in touch with NYJO, join the Over 18s, and become an Emerging Professional.

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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