NYJO Stories: Jess Bull Anderson

January 18, 2024

Now one of NYJO’s most dedicated and talented trombonists, Jess faced multiple barriers in her jazz journey, from sexism in school jazz bands to battles with her physical health.

Jess grew up in Solihull, near Birmingham, and her early love of music came from attending family concerts of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) as a child. She picked up the trumpet aged 10 and moved onto the trombone at 11 – the instrument that she plays with NYJO now.

But at school, as a girl she was discouraged from playing jazz. In Year 11, whilst already Grade 8 at her instrument, Jess was put in an ensemble of Year 7s, whilst boys at a similar level to her were playing in the top Big Band. Hence, she looked beyond school for playing opportunities, and joined the Midlands Youth Jazz Orchestra to take her jazz playing further.

Now fully immersed in a professional performance environment at NYJO, Jess has broken the mould at her school and established a legacy of girls playing jazz. In the summer of 2023, years after leaving, Jess was approached by a younger girl from her school who had been inspired by Jess’ example: “you don’t know me,” she said, “but you’re the reason I play jazz.”

Another barrier Jess has faced in her jazz journey is her physical health. She has always had migraine, a complex neurological genetic disorder which escalated in frequency and severity into chronic migraine in her later teenage years. In Sixth Form at Chetham’s School of Music, Jess spent most of her days – four to seven days a week – completely debilitated by severe pain, and unable to play the trombone. She went on to the Royal Academy of Music, but had to interrupt her studies due to short- and long-term memory loss caused by migraine and side-effects of medication.

When I had to interrupt my studies from Academy, I had no hope in myself as a musician or an artist, and I didn’t see a future at all, let alone a future career. Playing with NYJO during this period gave me back my confidence in myself as a musician, and as a person too. NYJO really made me see value in myself, and the people who I have met and played with have made me so excited for my future career in music. The atmosphere is so supportive, and I have made life-long friends.

Jess Bull Anderson, NYJO Emerging Professional


The same pathways in Jess’ brain were affected as are affected in dementia. She forgot things that were completely ingrained, such as how to tie her shoelaces, how to walk up and down stairs, and how to cook. She would go to the supermarket and be unable to name any of the fruit and veg that she saw, and forgot people who she’d known for years. Yet, at the same time, she was able to attend NYJO rehearsals:

To me it feels like an absolute miracle that throughout my memory loss my trombone playing wasn’t affected in the same way. I so strongly believe that having the opportunity to consistently play with NYJO ensured that so much of my musical memory stayed intact. Because of NYJO’s understanding, I was still able to fully immerse myself in and engage in music.

Jess Bull Anderson, NYJO Emerging Professional


With the support of multiple medical professionals and her fantastic neurologist, Jess has finally found a balance of migraine managements and treatments that work for her: the majority of her life is filled with “clear head days,” her memory has gradually returned, and the feeling of not remembering the last sentence seems distant.

With the continuity of playing that NYJO provided through this unimaginably difficult period in her life, Jess has been able to restart her studies at RAM in 2023 and continue her other love of painting. She will remain an invaluable member of the NYJO trombone section for years to come.


Keep with up Jess’ various musical and artistic endeavours on Instagram: @jessbullanderson.music and @jessbullanderson.art.


Photo credit: Alex Wardill

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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