It was good to see in Oxfordshire’s main NMC submission that they highlighted a series of graded ensembles in jazz and big band settings to provide progression routes and performing and recording opportunities for able musicians, who also play in school and area ensembles, or, at the highest level, have progressed beyond local provision. Those extension activities take place at the Centre for Music. It is quite rare to see a jazz initiative featured in the main NMC submission.
This Hub has four members of staff qualified (and very highly in some cases) to teach jazz, which given that jazz is included in assessment procedures is a good thing! The Hub has continued with the OCMS Student Assessment System, and all first access programmes include improvisation as an important area of development. Therefore all those students experience improvisation as a regualr part of their music lessons. That emphasis on improvisation continues with the established Oxfordshire progression system from beginner to post-grade 8 students. The Hub has also continued with the focused big band programme started by the Music Service in the mid-70s with the Oxfordshire Youth Big Band (OYBB). It now comprises three “progressive” big bands and two smaller jazz ensembles all of which are nourished by jazz groups from secondary schools and the five Saturday morning music centres. There are numerous examples of members of those aggregations entering conservatoires, universities and NYJO. And OYBB performs with established professional jazz musicians. Every Big Band concert is now recorded and used by students for A level and GCSE music purposes. We have seen and noted a formidable list of public gigs undertaken by all the Oxfordshire youth jazz ensembles.
Sheffield are a welcome newcomer to both the NMC overall scheme and to the Will Michael Awards. The Hub has a jazz specialist among the staff who leads on improvisation for the music service team’s CPD . She is also writing a jazz strategy for the Hub. Meantime, a first-ever jazz course has been run and attended by 83 young musicians at three levels of learning. Lead by professional jazz musicians the course culminated in a launch concert organised in such a way that the beginners were also able to participate. We look forward to hearing more from Sheffield in future years.
Seemingly South Gloucestershire’s jazz eggs have all gone into the big band basket for no other information has been vouchsafed to us!Thus the South Gloucestershire Youth Jazz Orchestra met weekly and registered several successful public performances.
Southend-on-Sea. Graded jazz piano syllabuses are taught at two schools and the woodwind equivalent from grade one to diploma level. Given the use of the LCM Jazz Syllabus students are required to compose, so much jazz composition is going on. Provision is made, on an ad hoc basis, for A level pupils who are interested in jazz. The Hub runs two jazz ensembles which meet weekly in term time and whose members have experienced live professional jazz performance by virtue of joint peformances with professionals. The Borough Council sponsor a number of jazz events, including an annual jazz festival.
Southampton. We were delighted to learn that the two directors of the Southampton Youth Jazz Workshop (SYJW) have written new teaching resources to support delivery of jazz in school classrooms. This represents a new dimension to music education for many Southampton schools and, unsurprisingly, has had a positive affect on those schools’ own jazz groups. The Hub has also allocated staff time to prepare new jazz repertoire for whole class teaching. Not only has this enabled many 8/9 year old pupils to experience and experiment with the jazz sound, it has also, simultaneously involved classroom music teachers in the learning process! Learning how to improvise is now a feature of a local, customised, schools’ music education programme. Effective liaison between classroom music teachers and the Hub’s specialist jazz educators in the form of advice and hands on guidance has resulted in many students’ GCSE and A level music course work including jazz repertoire.
In the Southampton Youth Jazz Orchestra (SYJO) and the SYJW, the Hub has two of the finest youth jazz ensembles in the country. They don’t take easy paths. For example, performing alongside Courtney Pine at the Turner Sims Concert Hall, when they had the stage to themselves, the programme comprised Ellington, Gillespie and Maria Schneider charts. That, incidentally, is but one example of SYJO performing jointly with big jazz names. Both ensembles were selected to play in the Essentially Ellington Festival at the Barbican in July 2012. And the steady flow of SYJO and SYJW musicians into higher education, including conservatoires, many to take jazz courses, continues.