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National Youth Jazz OrchestraABRSM has partnered with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra to help open up jazz to young people across the UK.

We share the belief that jazz is a musically rich medium through which creativity and communication can be explored and that it should be accessible to as many school-aged children as possible.

We are particularly keen to be supporting the innovative NYJO Jazz Messengers, a new sextet which reflects the diversity of the NYJO family and engages children and young people in listening to and learning jazz through inspirational concerts in schools.

In addition, we support the NYJO Academy Mentor Scheme which provides training in workshop leadership for emerging jazz musicians so they are equipped to help develop the next generation of young jazz musicians.

Through supporting NYJO’s educational programmes, our partnership aims to:

1. Raise the profile of jazz education in the UK: by making it clearer what the progression routes are for promising young jazz musicians.

2. Focus improvements in areas of low cultural engagement and poor arts provision: by delivering inspirational performances and workshop sessions by NYJO musicians and through providing mentoring for emerging next-generation jazz musicians.

3. Develop new resources to help support young musicians and teachers: by combining the collective expertise of both organisations to sustain engagement in jazz.

Jim Gold’s experience as an Academy Mentor

The NYJO Academy Mentor Scheme offers hands-on practical experience for emerging jazz musicians to work in an education setting, alongside NYJO’s experienced team of Musical Directors. Mentors receive training throughout the project and have the opportunity to support the delivery of NYJO Academy ensembles, working with talented young musicians aged eight and upwards. The scheme is for creative jazz musicians who are looking to develop as music workshop leaders and equip themselves with the skills necessary to become a 21st century jazz musician.

We caught up with NYJO Academy Mentor Jim Gold, a past holder of the lead alto chair in NYJO, to hear what it’s like to be part of the scheme.

Jim Gold National Youth Jazz Orchestra

Can you tell us a bit about your background as a musician – your training, your influences?

I studied jazz saxophone at the Royal Academy of Music having first read Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at University College, Oxford. Whilst at school I played with the National Youth Orchestra and attended classes at Junior RAM as well as the Weekend Arts College. Recently I’ve recorded a live album with Jasper Høiby’s Fellow Creatures as well as performing with them in Istanbul, and am looking forward to playing in Keith Tippett’s Octet at this year’s London Jazz Festival.

Why is it important for you to learn about teaching young musicians?

As part of the Royal Academy’s LRAM teaching scheme I co-led several workshops at St. Marylebone Girl’s School culminating in a public performance. It was one of the most rewarding components of the course and I was keen to undertake more training.

Why is that you’ve come to NYJO as a mentor to learn these skills?

Firstly, there’s no substitute for hands-on experience. There’s definitely a place for theory but the ratio should be heavily skewed towards practice.

Secondly, you benefit from being thrown in the deep end, in the sense that you are given complete responsibility for at least some of the sessions. This is the only way to develop the confidence you need in professional teaching scenarios.

Thirdly, you benefit from an experienced teacher critiquing your approach and suggesting areas of improvement. Gemma Buckenham, the MD of the NYJO Academy Big Band, was able to identify a solution which greatly increased the efficiency of my sessions only a couple of weeks in.

And what makes the NYJO Academy Mentor Scheme so special?

The NYJO Mentorship Scheme offers several unique elements; most obviously, the great volume of teaching experience on offer. With a partner we shadow two ensembles for a term each. This allows to you build a rapport with students and pursue a thread for an extended period. Furthermore, through working with two ensembles of contrasting size, ability, and style, you develop a diverse repertoire of exercises and approaches .

What other educational work are you doing at the moment?

I’ve recently started co-leading workshops at Ronnie Scott’s as part of their Big Band in a Day scheme, and both times I have also been playing the main set that evening, with the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra and the Callum Au Big Band. If I hadn’t taken part in the mentorship scheme I would have felt much less prepared for these kinds of opportunities.

Did you do any of the ABRSM jazz exams when you were learning?

Whilst at school I used the ABRSM Jazz Real Books but didn’t sit any of the exams. The pedigree of the consultants who designed the jazz grades couldn’t be more impressive and I appreciate the focus on practical application of aural skills. I’ve always found a definite goal to be the most potent catalyst for progress so I would certainly use them with students.

If you could play a young jazz musician just one jazz track to inspire them, which one would it be?

Rather than a track I’d suggest a live experience; for me it was Tim Garland appearing with Acoustic Triangle and Nigel Hitchcock on lead alto with the Stan Tracey Big Band. So if you get the chance to see either of those saxophone players, take it!

The National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) is Britain’s leading ensemble for young people up to 25 playing big-band jazz. Its mission is to perform exceptional music to excite audiences and engage with young people of all backgrounds around the country. In addition to the main performing orchestra, the organisation operates the weekly NYJO Academy which contains several training bands and a vocal ensemble, and a nationwide series of workshops and educational events intended to inspire children and young people with a love of music and jazz. The organisation has helped launch the careers of many of the UK’s most-renowned musicians including Guy Barker, Amy Winehouse, Mark Nightingale, Laura Jurd and Gwilym Simcock. NYJO is a registered charity (no. 274578), it celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015 and recently released a special double-album ‘NYJO FIFTY’.


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