Ms Maurice (Sheila Maurice-Grey) recently hosted our January NYJO Jazz Jam at Foyles bookshop for under 18’s, and has been part of our NYJO Jazz Messengers project for the last two years, touring primary and secondary schools up and down the country to spread the gospel of jazz and inspire young people to take up music.
She is bandleader of KOKOROKO and plays with jazz septet Nérija who were nominated for Jazz FM Breakthrough Act 2016 and were the winners of the Parliamentary Jazz Newcomer of Year in 2017. She has performed with the likes of Solange, Kano on the Jools Holland Show, and features on Little Simz’s album Stillness in Wonderland.
We caught up with Sheila to talk about her jazz career, thoughts on jazz education, and her advice for young aspiring musicians:
You’re making big waves on the British jazz scene at the moment. Has there been a particular stand-out highlight of your career so far?
Having the chance to perform with so many great musicians and big names such as Solange last year, Little Simz, Kano – really cool musicians! Also doing some cool stuff within my community of musicians and playing with friends on a regular basis is a continuous highlight for me.
How has being a NYJO Jazz Messenger helped your own professional development?
It was really nice to play with the other musicians in the NYJO Jazz Messengers (I have played with them all before but never in that line-up). Also, the first year I did the NYJO Jazz Messengers it was the first time I’d played straight-ahead jazz for a while so it was a great way to get back into that.
Tell us about the band you brought with you to the NYJO Jazz Jam at the end of January?
Alongside me in my trio there was Patrick Boyle on drums and Isobella Burnham on bass. I’ve played with Patrick for many years, and we have played in quite a few bands together. I was introduced to Isobella about a year ago and I played my first gig with her with Steam Down. The NYJO Jazz Jam was the second time I’ve played with them both and the first time in front of an audience – I don’t do much trio work and don’t know many trumpet players that do because it can be so demanding and quite tiring on the chops! But I wanted to challenge myself and I enjoyed doing it.
Why do you think it’s important for young people to have access to music education?
I can only talk about my experience – I didn’t come from the most privileged background and didn’t have much exposure to music, so if it wasn’t for many different great music services I wouldn’t be playing music today.
If you didn’t play the trumpet, what instrument would you play?
Definitely piano (that’s what I started out playing, and still play a little bit every now and then)
What advice would you give to young musicians who aspire to peruse music as a career?
Just take up as many opportunities as you can. And make sure you practise lots now when you have the time to do so, before you have to worry about paying bills and things like that! Having the time in your schedule to practise every day can be hard to come by as you get busier.