NYJO Learning: Sound Foundations

March 14, 2024

At NYJO, we strongly believe that music, especially when played with others, has unique benefits to young people. The skills involved in playing an instrument – confidence, creativity, being a team player – are all hugely important and can have a great impact on a young person’s development. We also know that not everyone can access the same opportunities. Many young people are excluded from music-making chances beyond primary school if, for example, their parents are unable to afford an instrument or lessons. Our mission is to bridge this gap and ensure that as many young people as possible have the chance to take part in the joyous world of jazz. We know that this will have a positive impact not only on the young musicians themselves, but also on the music industry at large, adding to the richness and diversity of the sector.

With all of this in mind, the NYJO Learning team is delivering a first-access project – Sound Foundations – in partnership with two local schools in Southeast London: the Harris Academy Greenwich and the Woolwich Polytechnic School for Girls. We have given away brand-new trumpets and saxophones to 20 pupils and are delivering weekly group learning sessions at the schools, as well as setting up a new entry-level ensemble, meeting every Saturday at our home in Woolwich Works.

Vikki Maudave, our Head of Learning says about the project:

There’s something very special about putting a brand-new instrument into the hands of young people who felt that the opportunity to learn an instrument wasn’t for them. To see their excitement and to witness their steady progress as they are inspired and nurtured by NYJO educators, who share their joy of playing with the young students is one of the reasons why we do the work we do! Can you imagine that one day, one of these students is a NYJO musician of the future?! And if that’s not their path, if they discover that playing an instrument brings them pride and joy, I’ll be thrilled.

To take part, pupils will be asked to commit to two-years of practicing, including attending weekly sessions delivered by NYJO educators at their school during term time, and encouraged to join the new NYJO Creative Ensemble on Saturdays. After the initial two years, the instruments are theirs to keep, as long as they are practicing and attending lessons. We hope that at the end of the two year pilot they will continue their musical journey.

At Woolwich Poly Girls, 10 of our Year 8 and 9 students have been receiving free saxophone lessons led by Lydia and Flo from NYJO. The students have already gained so much from the lessons and are growing in confidence each week. They were quite shy to begin with but are now really keen to demonstrate what they have learnt each week and enjoy receiving feedback on how to improve. This project has been so important in providing our students with an opportunity to learn an instrument for free and making the saxophone accessible to them. As they continue to improve we are looking forward to getting them involved in our school concert band and growing the number of instrumentalists we have in our school!

Miss E Wright, Music Teacher at Woolwich Polytechnic School for Girls

The pupils were extremely excited to receive the instruments. You can still see it in the workshop sessions. They are all practicing in between sessions and want to play in their weekly music lessons. This project gives pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to work with professional organisations and understand there is a world outside the local area. It’s a wonderful way of breaking down barriers and allowing pupils to dream big and having a realisation that these dreams can be achieved.

Mr Michael Rogers, Head of Music at Harris Academy Greenwich


Sound Foundations will also be a training opportunity for NYJO Emerging Professionals interested in education work to be taught by two experienced musicians and educators, Andy Grappy and Vij Prakash, who will offer mentoring and guidance on delivering entry-level lessons for young people.

Flo Redmonds, one of the NYJO Emerging Professionals who has been delivering these sessions says:

It was really special to be provided with training sessions before we started the actual teaching, as it gave us a unique opportunity to really curate a special learning experience for the young people at Woolwich Polytechnic School for Girls. As someone who came up through state school music services myself, teachers usually don’t have the time or resources to devote themselves to their students to such an extent, so it really is a pleasure to be able to start off feeling so well prepared and supported.

Another NYJO Emerging Professional involved in the project as an educator, Lydia Cochrane, adds:

I’m so proud and excited for us to be mentors to these girls as we see them grow as musicians. To see the progress they have made already, not just on the saxophone but also in their confidence in the group, has been wonderful and quite an emotional thing! I am so aware of how I wouldn’t be where I am today without having had access to similar schemes to Sound Foundations, and I couldn’t imagine my life having not been lucky enough to have musical education, so I’m so grateful and excited to be able to pass on some of the same feelings and experiences to the new generation of players!

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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