NYJO 2020 | A Year Review

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Happy New Year! Before we look forward to 2021, we decided to take a look back at what has been quite a 12 months!


NYJO 2020 | A Year Review

Jazz Exchange (JX)

January saw us introduce the world to the Jazz Exchange (JX) a brand-new ensemble for a group of young, eclectic musicians to explore new modes of expression.

The group consists of Coren Sithers (Saxophone), Emma Rawicz (Saxophone), Matthew Holmes (Drums, Emile Hinton (Keys), Fergus Quill (Bass), Joshua Mellard (Synths/Electronics), Rosie Frater-Taylor (Guitar), Mischa Jardine (Cello), Didier Osindero (Violin) and Manny Alexandra (Vocals).

Unfortunately, Manny left the group early on and almost all of the physical rehearsals and writing sessions planned throughout the year had to be moved online, which slowed progress down immensely. Despite all this, we see 2021 as an opportunity to achieve some really exciting things with the Jazz Exchange and can’t wait to get going.

We have a lot of faith in these young creatives and believe they’ll be a dynamic force next year, with new music and new shows that’ll we’ll all be able to enjoy. WATCH. THIS. SPACE.

If you want to get to know a couple of the JX band-members a bit better, both Mischa and Fergus provided some great contributions to this years’ Black History Month observations, which you can read by clicking on their names below!

NYJO 2020 | A Year Review

Olivia Murphy Becomes NYJO’s new Composer Chair

The second month of the year delivered another really exciting announcement. Olivia Murphy, the Birmingham-based saxophonist and composer, became our very first female Composer Chair!

During her time at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Olivia was the first and only two-time winner of the coveted RBC Jazz Composition Prize and in her final year debuted The Virgil Suite for her Almost Big Band (13 piece large ensemble featuring Percy Pursglove).

NYJO 2020 | A Year Review
Read our interview with Olivia from Feb here!

Since graduating in 2019, Olivia has been writing and recording a “mini-suite” for her band Paper Shaped People, a sextet fronted by soprano saxophone, vocals and trombone which will be released later this year. As well as performing her music across the UK, Olivia performs in a variety of different ensembles including Birmingham Jazz Orchestra, Steve Tromans / Olivia Murphy Duo and Break Out Brass Band.

32:57 – “Tomorrow Songs” Olivia Murphy (soprano sax, electronics) with Olly Chalk (piano, electronics) and Becca Wilkins (vocals, electronics)

In August we were also thrilled to see Olivia commissioned to write new music to be recorded remotely during the summer lockdown. Olivia’s contribution “Tomorrow Songs” was premiered by Jazzwise Magazine as a part of Around The Houses online jazz festival in collaboration with Stoney Lane Records!

Olivia is currently working with the team on a really exciting project set for next year. Updates should arrive in the early part of 2021.

NYJO 2020 | A Year Review

The Doors Close

March. What seems like a lifetime ago was the month when the reality of the coronavirus began to take hold. On the 18th, we released a statement to confirm that we would comply with government guidance, which at that time still permitted live events to go ahead.

A week later and things had changed dramatically. In a statement that followed some five days after; our Artistic Director, Mark Armstrong, began with: “During these unprecedented times, it goes without saying that our first priority has been to keep everyone in the NYJO family safe and healthy  – but we are also keen to stress that we remain undeterred in our mission to keep the torch burning for young jazz musicians up and down the country.

NYJO 2020 | A Year Review
Read Mark’s statement in-full here.

As you will all be aware, the situation for those in arts & entertainment became dire very quickly, with every update providing very little room for any optimism in the coming months. In order to keep meeting our charitable goals it was time to change – and change we did! First, we wanted to reconnect with budding jazz musicians all over the country and our #IsolationImprovisation challenge for April did just that!

NYJO 2020 | A Year Review


If March was the month we began to take our efforts online; April was the month when we really started to see engagement from a variety of people on social media. What began as an attempt to galvanise members of NYJO Academies up and down the country actually saw us engage and inspire people from both inside and outside the NYJO family as more and more musicians began to contribute their own posts.

Our #IsolationImprovisation was outlined as follows:

We had an incredible response from young musicians all over the country, including members of our current ensembles such as NYJO’s Matt Hollick (Bass), Adam Chinery (Guitar) and Maria Rehakova (Flute) and Jazz Exchange band-members Rosie Frater-Taylor (Guitar/Vocals) and Emma Rawicz (Sax).

Matt Hollick (NYJO, Bass) provides #IsolationImprovisation video.

This was a really positive start to what would become months of a more digitally focused approach for the charity (as you’ll see from the rest of this post!).

If you’d like to see more of our favourite clips from this particular campaign, simply click on the image below and scroll away!

NYJO 2020 | A Year Review
Check out clips from various members of the NYJO family on Instagam now!

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