NYJO in Durham: Creative Composition

June 7, 2023

Between November 2022 and March 2023, NYJO partnered with Durham Music Service to deliver a Creative Composition project culminating in a performance of the group’s original composition at Sage Gateshead.

We wanted to create a project that would welcome young musicians from around the county – from Darlington to Durham – whatever their instrument or skills level. With this in mind, NYJO Educator Olivia Murphy, with the support of NYJO musician Fergus Quill, worked closely with Durham Music Service to create a meeting ground for musicians coming from brass, orchestral, and pop backgrounds to write and play together.


Hear what Olivia and the young musicians involved in the project had to say about their experience:



The final piece created was all from the young people – I only combined all of their ideas on paper! The finished piece showcased all of the brilliant musicians in Durham Music Service and featured some incredible / creative improvisations alongside a brilliant composition.

Olivia Murphy, NYJO Educator


I felt that the environment created in the workshops by Olivia, Fergus and Myra was fantastic, it was relaxed and very welcoming. Each workshop gave participants the opportunity to offer their ideas and ensure that every individual had a say in how the piece was created.

Amy Leggett, Durham Music Service


During this project, the young musicians (some of whom had never played jazz, or engaged with any county ensembles before) developed key jazz skills, experimented with improvisation, created their own composition, and improved their technical jazz knowledge. It was brilliant to see them grow and develop as confident young jazz musicians!


I’m better at improvisation since I have had more of a chance to practice it.

Tom, young musician


I have played jazz for the first time.

Amari, young musician


The rehearsal venues for this project alternated between two locations, in Durham and Darlington, meaning that young musicians who lived near each of the locations would travel shorter distances alternately, rather than every day. This resulted in the attendance of participants from a wider geographical reach across County Durham, including South Hetton, Peterlee, Sedgefield, Chester-le-Street, Durham, and Darlington. This new format was part of our joint strategy with Durham Music Service to widen access to their jazz ensembles across the county as a whole. It was brilliant to see how successfully it brought together a group of young musicians from across a wide range of influences and experience too!


If you work for a Hub or Music Service and are interested in getting involved with our Widening Access programme, please get in touch today!

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

Support us

Support the future of jazz

Can you help us nurture a nation of young jazz musicians?

Join our passionate community of Friends, grant-making organisations or corporate sponsors at a level that suits you and share your love of jazz with the next generation.