Our Saturday Story

July 19, 2022

On Saturdays at NYJO Learning, we run a programme of weekly ensembles designed to support young people under the age of 18 to progress musically, make new friends, and develop key skills as young musicians. Whether you are interested in Big Band music, vocal work, finding out more about improvisation, or developing within small ensembles, there is something for you to get involved in on a Saturday at Woolwich Works! Youth Voice is at the heart of the work that we do through our Saturday ensembles. Through our Youth Forum, ‘Bring you own Charts’ days, or our monthly jams, there are plenty of opportunities for our young musicians to have their voice heard and to help shape the future direction of NYJO:

The NYJO Youth Forum is a great idea and it’s nice to feel like the NYJO community is accountable and listens to us!

Tom, NYJO Student


Our monthly jam sessions are an important part of our Saturday timetable. They are an exciting opportunity for young musicians across our different groups to come together, play, and learn from one another. Over the last year, one of NYJO’s brilliant educators Floetic Lara Lee (Flo) has been showing our young musicians how to lead a jam session; providing support with how best to hear each other’s ideas, learn from one another, and create a nurturing and positive environment that allows for risk-taking and mistakes to be made. From September 2022, our young musicians will take what they have learnt with Flo forward to make these jams entirely youth-led, and to develop the key skills required to become young leaders within NYJO. Creating these spaces where our young musicians feel supported and encouraged is crucial to the work that we do through NYJO Learning;

I feel so much more comfortable soloing and improvising than I did when I started, and this is largely down to the comfortable space to try.

Briony, NYJO Student


Another important way that we support our young musicians’ learning is through a programme of masterclasses and events, which allow our young people to hear from different educators and gain new skills and experience. Throughout 2022, we have had some brilliant guest speakers come in with a focus on supporting our young musicians’ mental health and wellbeing. Raphael Clarkson, from the organisation Mindful Music, delivered a very successful masterclass focused around collective/democratic approaches to improvisation and composition. As a group, they used meditative, mindful group improvisation exercises to explore this new way of working and tune into how their emotions impact their music-making. We were also delighted to finish our Summer term with a seminar delivered by the incredible organisation ‘Things Musicians Don’t Talk About’. This encouraged our young musicians to think about the ways that they can support their own wellbeing and kicked off a fascinating discussion about what needs to change within the music industry as whole to better support its young players at all levels.

Every term, we ask our young musicians to let us know how they feel we are doing! This year, with 1 being ‘not at all’ and 10 as ‘yes, definitely’, we asked our participants whether they felt supported and welcomed within our Saturday programmes. Their mean response was 9.28. We are very proud of all the young people that we work with, and it an absolute joy to see them every Saturday and watch their progression, enthusiasm, and love of music develop;

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 Student


As we move into the next academic year, we are looking forward to seeing new developments throughout our Saturday work, welcoming new young players, and even launching a brand-new name! We are always looking for young people who are keen to get involved. In particular, we are currently seeking to redress existing balances within the music industry by prioritising applications from young female and non-binary musicians, young people who are from Black, Asian and Diverse Ethnicities, disabled young musicians, and young people who are from low-income backgrounds. If you would like to find out more about joining any of our Saturday programmes, please get in touch today!

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Quote 1 (Jazzwise)

"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

Quote 2 (Lucy-Anne)

“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 Singer

Quote 3 (Academy)

"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 Student

Quote 4 (Emma)

"The JX programme has been hugely helpful to me so far, consistently pushing me to explore new areas of composition, playing and collaborating with others, in many different formats."

Emma Rawicz, NYJO Musician

Quote 5 (Sam)

"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 (Animate project)

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