Do I have to be a fluent improviser?

Not all chairs in the orchestra take solos. Lead trumpet, horn, bass trombone and baritone sax traditionally don’t improvise; while the flute chair has just a few solos. Certainly we have some musicians in the band who are classically trained, and develop their ability to solo while they’re here. Equally if you love improvising we’ll find opportunities for you to do so no matter what chair you’re in!


Do I have to be really good at sight-reading?

Reading is an important skill for all musicians so some ability in this area is required. But this must be balanced with an ability to internalise music and understand it aurally to produce the most stylish results. Most charts are available to download for individual practice but there will be some occasions when you will need to get to know music at short notice which is the reality of the music business.


I didn’t train at the NYJO Academy. Can I apply for NYJO?

Yes of course! Certainly the NYJO Academy is one good way to develop experience in large ensemble jazz-playing, but it’s by no means the only one!


Do I have to be at /have studied at a conservatoire to join NYJO?

Nope! Conservatoires are great, but they’re not everyone’s cup of tea and they’re certainly not the only route to being a jazz musician. No matter your training so far, if you want to develop as a jazz ensemble player, we’d love to meet you.


Do I have to be principally a jazz player to join NYJO?

A surprising number of our musicians were classically trained, and through NYJO develop their ability to play in jazz and contemporary styles in preparation for a career playing for shows, or just to add another string to their bows. If this is you, we can help you fill in the gaps in your experience.


Do I have to have had big band experience to join NYJO?

Yes we ask for some big band experience so you know what you’re getting yourself into. But don’t worry if you don’t have lots.


Do I have to live in London?

No! Musicians travel to NYJO from Hull, Cardiff, Birmingham, Leeds and more. In fact, if you live outside the M25, NYJO will pay your travel expenses to rehearsals and performances – thanks to the support of Help Musicians UK. We’ll pay for travel to your audition too, if you live outside of London or Birmingham.


Do I have to attend every rehearsal and performance?

The expectation is that if offered a chair, you will attend all rehearsals and performances unless these clash with academic commitments. It is important that all absences are dealt with professionally; by giving NYJO as much notice as possible and following the absence procedure which will be set out to you on being offered a chair.

If you are getting so busy in your career that you find it difficult to attend NYJO regularly, we consider that to be a fantastic success, and will open a conversation on whether it’s time for you to graduate.


Do I have to be over 18 to join NYJO?

The majority of our musicians are over 18 (and all musicians graduate the January after their 26th birthday). However we have had under-18 members and will consider applications from under 18s. Due to Child Performance Licensing restrictions we are unlikely to offer places to musicians aged 16 or under.


I’m 25 already, can I apply?

Sadly not – once you’re in the band, you can stay until the January before your 26th birthday, but to ensure you enjoy a substantial period of time in the band, you need to be 23 or under in January 2020 in order to apply.


What instruments can apply?

The jazz orchestra is made up of the following chairs:

Female vocal

Male vocal

Alto sax 1 and 2

Tenor sax 1 and 2

Bari Sax


Trombones 1-4

Bass Trombone


Lead Trumpet

Section Trumpets 2 and 3

Jazz Trumpets 4 and 5








Do I have to be able to double to be sax player in NYJO?

You don’t have to double when you arrive but doubling is an important element of a professional sax player’s toolkit, so we strongly suggest you take advantage of the instrument loans and doubling opportunities at NYJO to work towards being decent doubler by the time you leave!


Have another question?

Please email our Orchestra Manager Roger Wilson: roger@nyjo.org.uk


Frequently Asked Questions: National Youth Jazz Orchestra