Earlier this year, NYJO partnered with Lancashire Music Service to develop an exciting project – Jazz Futures – a new creative ensemble, run by and for young musicians in the county who want to develop their creative music-making skills and play with their peers. This project had three main goals: to allow participants to meet and collaborate with an inspiring team of tutors, mentors, and like-minded young musicians; to develop their improvisation and arrangement skills; and to provide them with performance opportunities.
After the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of young musicians in the Lancashire County jazz band and orchestra drastically declined. Lancashire Music Service wanted to increase the number of young musicians taking part in these groups, by inspiring more children and young people to take up an instrument.
Jazz Futures was led by Joe Browne – an experienced MD and Educator who has been working with NYJO to deliver Learning projects around the country for many years – and co-led by Rick Halliwell, from Lancashire Music Service.
Alongside Joe and Rick, the workshops were supported by Assistant Educators from Leeds Conservatoire (aged 17-19), giving the students the opportunity to take their first steps into music education. Joe and the Assistant Educator team worked closely with the young participants to turn their ideas into arrangements, a challenge to which they responded very enthusiastically.
The Assistant Educators played an invaluable role in the project; acting as mentors to the young musicians, ensuring their ideas were incorporated into the creative process, giving them insightful feedback on their pieces, and even taking the time to talk about life at music college, where many of the young participants hope to go on to study next.
I thought the first session with the Jazz Futures North-West ensemble was very exciting. Aside from being magnificent players, I thought the young people had just the right attitude for the project: open minds, open ears, a keen sense of self-expression but also a sensitivity to the collaborative process. They worked incredibly fast, and by the end of the first 2-day session they had four more-or-less complete arrangements in place. It is a thrilling prospect to be working with such a talented group of young people who already work together so well.
Joe Browne, NYJO Educator
The young musicians themselves had two roles in the project, as both musicians and as mentors. They were firstly given the opportunity to develop their own playing and arrangement skills together. This was particularly important in a county where rural isolation is pervasive, and the project offered an opportunity for like-minded young people who are musically engaged to come together and create a sense of community. Afterwards, their role was to go on to excite local children and young people, encouraging them to take part in the joys of collective music-making.
This latter element happened through the group’s performance at Ribble Valley Jazz Festival in April 2023. As the project develops across the 2023-24 academic year, there will be more opportunities for the Jazz Futures ensemble to perform at Primary Schools across the county.
I hope to make more connections with NYJO tutors and alumni and have the opportunity to play in schools to inspire the next generation!
Owen, young musician
We’re excited to have such a strong partnership with Lancashire Music Service where we can experiment with new ways of working and supporting the growth in numbers of instrumentalists across the county.
This project was part of NYJO Learning’s Widening Access programme – supported by the David Laing and Kirby Laing Foundations – designed to address structural barriers to jazz education across the country.
If you work for a Hub or Music Service and are interested in finding out more about our Widening Access programme, please get in touch today by emailing NYJO’s Head of Learning Vikki Moorhouse on [email protected], or calling 0330 500 2002.