We believe that playing an instrument can be a valuable part of many young people’s lives: whether they’re playing just for fun, to express themselves or because their ambition is to be a professional musician. It can take a lot of music lessons – at school, privately or through a music hub – to become proficient on an instrument. At NYJO, we work with lots of very talented young musicians who were lucky enough to be offered opportunities to learn an instrument as a teenager (and often much younger). Many young people miss out on those opportunities and think that if you didn’t learn an instrument in primary school, then it’s too late to start learning in secondary school. We don’t think it’s ever too late to enjoy playing an instrument, whether your instrument is your voice, or you make music digitally, we love to see young people get involved in music-making!
In July 2022, NYJO Learning embarked on a Greenwich Jazz Messengers Schools’ Tour. Through this tour, we aimed to inspire young people to take up an instrument and encourage them to get involved in extra-curricular music-making. The tour was led by the incredible Floetic Lara Lee, aka Flo! A spoken word artist, poet, singer and songwriter, Flo blends onomatopoeic phrasing, musical accents and lyrics steeped in honesty, passion and experience, to remind us of the rhythm of historical storytellers. Flo has her own lived experience of adversity – leaving school, leaving home… finding her way back to her power through writing & performing. Flo’s ability to connect with young people across different backgrounds and contexts made her the perfect lead for our Jazz Messengers ensemble.
Alongside her were a brilliant band of NYJO Musicians, made up of two members of our Jazz Orchestra as well as two young musicians who have recently come up through our Saturday Learning programmes. Across four days, this band visited eight schools within the borough of Greenwich: six State secondaries, one hospital school, and one school for young people with Additional Educational Needs. Flo put together a setlist designed to introduce the young people we met across the tour to different styles of jazz, and to see how it intersects with music from other genres and artists that they may be listening to today. Some of the tunes performed by the band included Summertime (Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong), My Favourite Things (John Coltrane), Four Women (Nine Simone), and Valerie (Amy Winehouse & Mark Ronson).
In a survey carried out before the start of the tour, 40% of the young people that we visited across the week said that they had never seen live music before. After the tour, 100% of the young people surveyed said that watching the performance had inspired them to learn an instrument. When asked to describe jazz music in one word, their responses included;
‘uplifting’, ‘FUNNN’, ‘exciting’, and ‘amazing’! ‘I liked the players individuality, how we can see their talent whilst they make up their own music. I also like how they don’t only focus on themselves, but also the music around them and how they can play all together’. ‘The music was upbeat and it was very inspiring to learn to be proud to start learning an instrument’!
Following on from the tour, there has been a real desire from the schools for support in providing more opportunities for young people to learn frontline horn instruments. At NYJO Learning, we are really looking forward to nurturing these new relationships with schools across our local community and supporting these students to engage in new music-making opportunities. Watch this space to see where the NYJO Jazz Messengers land next year! If your school would be interested in working with NYJO to encourage take-up of instrumental lessons, then get in touch today.