NYJO in Lancashire: First Time Jazz 2024

July 2, 2024

Since 2017, we have run an annual tour of secondary schools designed to bring jazz and jazz-inspired music to young people who haven’t had the opportunity to experience it live before, performed by a young and diverse group of musicians. The core idea is to be relevant: for young people to hear familiar music creatively reimagined by a jazz ensemble, to meet and jam with the band, and to see themselves in the musicians visiting their school.


First Time Jazz (together with its previous name, Jazz Messengers) has now reached 17,395 young people from over 100 different schools across the country. Last year, the band visited both North Lincolnshire and Thurrock in Essex, having prepared a varied set including arrangements of more contemporary artists like Amy Winehouse, Corrine Bailey Rae, and Gnarls Barkley, as well as jazz tunes by Roy Hargrove, Nina Simone, and Billie Holiday. The repertoire was chosen to be accessible, enjoyable, and to create a relatable social context for the jazz tradition, including opportunities for the audience to sing along. After the visits, we asked young people to describe jazz music in one word:

Free; amazing; exciting; fun; funky; experimental; spectacular; joyful; uniting; important; euphoric; inspiring; expressive; jaw-dropping; soulful; alive; powerful.

One budding young singer at a school in discovered NYJO through First Time Jazz, and now regularly attends our Under 18s Band led by Winston Clifford – travelling into south-east London from Essex on the train every weekend.



This year, First Time Jazz is coming to Lancashire from 8-12 July. Led by the South London singer/songwriter Wolfie (Laura Wolfe), the band will feature NYJO Emerging Professionals Sophie Speed on saxophone, Tamir Smith on bass, and, returning for the second year in a row, Georgia Ayew on drums and Jennie Beard on keyboards (read about Jennie’s NYJO journey here). The band will stay for the week in Lancashire, travelling between two schools each day and bringing the creativity and collective inspiration of jazz to the North-West.

We are also in the midst of our current Widening Access project in partnership with Lancashire Music Hub: the second edition of Jazz Futures (read more about the first edition here). Since October, NYJO Emerging Professionals and Educators have been regularly visiting Lancashire to incubate a focused group of young musicians with an early interest in jazz. Members of the Jazz Futures band will join the First Time Jazz band as special guests – maybe even touring their original composition ‘Lancs Blues’ across the county.


We are grateful to the Victoria Wood Foundation for their continued support of our work in the North-West – including this First Time Jazz project – as well as our generous Friends of NYJO for enabling all of our education work in Lancashire and beyond.


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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