NYJO Stories: Olivia Cuttill

May 29, 2024

Olivia’s journey to become a trumpet player wasn’t always linear. Although she knew she wanted to be a musician from an early age – following the footsteps of her drummer father – it took her a few years to settle on the trumpet as her weapon of choice:

During school, I was lucky enough to get free trumpet lessons for years. I kept them up because I loved music, but I hadn’t really connected with the trumpet itself. During this time, I dabbled in lots of things, drums, piano, trombone, etc. Despite not being particularly gifted in any of these instruments I kept the dream alive of being a musician. That part was never a question, I’d seen my dad do music all his life and I knew that’s what I was going to be. It was when I got to college and was introduced to playing jazz – up until then I had only played songs I listened to, Stevie Wonder, music from my favourite films, etc – but when I played standards in the trumpet, for the first time ever, I heard the horn sing! That’s when everything changed, I knew the trumpet was for me.


During her time at Leeds Conservatoire, the COVID-19 pandemic national lockdowns made practicing and playing with the other jazz musicians in her halls one of the few things she could still do, with everything else closed and inaccessible. Coupled with a “tough love” teacher in the form of Mark Chandler, who she met every week for the three years she spent at Leeds University, the circumstances were set to help Olivia achieve her potential. She would grow to be an incredible trumpet player, involved in numerous exciting creative projects. Having just launched and toured an album of original work with her quintet, Olivia is delivering Learning projects with NYJO.


Listen to The Whole Damn Plan by Olivia Cuttill’s Quintet


Olivia first became involved with NYJO in 2023, after applying to become an Emerging Professional. By happy coincidence, the first project she worked on was our tour with guest artist Nikki Yeoh – the Nikki Yeoh & NYJO Present: Speechmik X-Ploration programme, revisiting and reinterpreting some of the pianist/composer’s work, in memory of her late mentor and trumpet player, Ian Carr. Nikki had been Olivia’s ensemble teacher in her last year at uni, which helped her ease into the new environment.

There were a lot of nerves going through my body at first, but once we started playing the music, I thought: “oh, this is going to be so much fun!” It went from scary-exciting to fun-exciting!


The project toured the country from November 2023 to May 2024, playing five gigs – at Milton Court and Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club (London), Saffron Hall (Essex), Stoller Hall (Manchester), and Cheltenham Jazz Festival.

When I thought of NYJO, before I became part of it, I wouldn’t have thought of this type of music. Everyone thinks it’s just swing and stuff – which I love, and I love to do stuff like that too – but [Nikki’s music] is really, really fun. And it has inspired me in terms of my own writing too. I’m really glad I’ve been on this project.



Since joining NYJO, Olivia has also been delivering education work with our Learning team, leading a NYJO Under 18s jam session at Woolwich Works, working in Lancashire as part of our Jazz Futures project (in partnership with Lancashire Music Service), and on our Canterbury Jazz Day, introducing local secondary schools’ pupils to jazz.

I’ve never done any teaching in this style before, so it’s really nice of NYJO to trust me to do it.



Coming up through the bustling Leeds jazz scene, Olivia has been involved in loads of different creative projects – co-leading Mangorata (a 6-piece jazz fusion band), playing in Ferg’s Imaginary Big Band (led by NYJO alum and Educator, Fergus Quill), and with Leeds/London-based Lebanese singer Sunkissed Child, to name a few – which has helped her develop into a well-rounded musician, now running her own project of original work, the Olivia Cuttill Quintet.

Her debut album, The Whole Damn Plan, was released in January. With NYJO’s support, Olivia and her quintet toured the country to promote the album launch, playing at venues in Leeds, London, Southend, Birmingham, Huddersfield, and Sheffield. We were able to help Olivia’s band with logistics, marketing and promotion, as well as travel expenses, so they could bring the brilliant music they’ve been working on to new audiences around the UK.

All the gigs were lovely, we had such a great time! And the help from NYJO was so great because we wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise.


Give the The Whole Damn Plan a listen and keep an eye out on Olivia’s channels to see what’s coming up next!

If you have a project you would like us to support, get in touch with NYJO’s Ensembles Manager George Gatehouse on [email protected] to discuss how we can help you!

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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