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

Three Nations Goes Online

Three Nations Under One Groove is a collaboration between the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, Germany’s BuJazzO and the NJJO from Holland. Three large jazz ensembles, 85 of Europe’s top emerging jazz musicians, and for this year at least – a whole lot of Zoom!

The three bands have been collaborating since 2014. For the last outing back in April ’18, the three orchestras met up for five days of collaborative music-making, which featured a UK tour plus an additional European leg for good measure. In 2020? things were a little bit different!

This time round, each of the three Artistic Directors – Mark Armstrong (NYJO), Martin Fondse (NJJO) and Niels Klein (BuJazzO) – were challenged to come up with their own composition, which was then presented to the musicians to learn and perfect throughout the weeks worth of activities. Each part was then remotely recorded and mixed together to create three unique split-screen performances.

“Coastbound” composed by Mark Armstrong (Video: Tom Gimson Audio: Winston Rollins)

To view all three split-screen performances click here!

The weeks’ activities was also be supported by a selection of special evening events with some of the most talented professionals working with large ensembles today. The talks featured Miho Hamaza (Metropole Orchestra) and the amazing Maria Schneider, who each discussed their careers and took questions from all the eager band-members in attendance.

NYJO 2020 | A Year Review
Miho Hamaza (left) and Maria Schneider (right)

NYJO Board Changes

September was also made more exciting by the news that the NYJO board was to undergo a comprehensive reshuffle, with pianist/composer and leading jazz educator, Nikki Iles, and business psychologist and author, Clive Lewis OBE, joining the team in early 2021; and current board-member, Orphy Robinson MBE, being elevated to the Vice-Chair position.

NYJO 2020 | A Year Review
Orphy Robinson MBE (left) and Nikki Iles (right)

Shortly before this announcement, NYJO’s new Finance Trustee – who began with immediate effect – was confirmed as Chartered Accountant and jazz pianist, Alex Spofforth. Alex is passionate about providing help, support and opportunities for musicians at all stages of their lives. A senior trustee at Help Musicians UK, Alex also works with many clients reliant on the gig economy, eager to gain more autonomy over their careers.

NYJO 2020 | A Year Review
Clive Lewis OBE (left) and Alex Spofforth (right)

Stepping down after many decades of diligent, unpaid service between them; Gordon SilverJack Fallow and Ted Rockley will make way for the new recruits to bring their own experience, ideas and points of view to the roles. Keen to ensure he remained a part of the family, Gordon Silver was also elected as Trustee Emeritus.

To read the announcement in-full, including comments from those stepping up and stepping down – click here!

Thoughts & Prayers

Sadly, on the 3rd December, Gordon passed away. Gordon played a huge part in transforming NYJO’s finances during his tenure and was loved by all who had the pleasure to work along him at NYJO HQ. The NYJO team send their thoughts and prayers to all of his friends and family at this time.

NYJO Artistic Director, Mark Armstrong, was compelled to compose a lovely piece of music for Gordon upon hearing the news of his decision to step down from NYJO duties, and the role he cherished for over a decade. “Silver Sonic” was something that clearly gave Gordon a huge amount of pleasure – demonstrated by him having asked for it to be played at his funeral service.

Mark performs “Silver Sonic”

“Gordon and I worked closely together on NYJO’s finances from 2010 till early 2020, when with typical professionalism he decided to step down as NYJO CFO and hand over to his successor while still well enough to do so. He was one of the nicest as well as most competent colleagues I have ever had; I can honestly say that there was never any kind of cross word between us, and I can’t recall even a minor disagreement – his recommendations and decisions were always so objective and rational that they were easy for the whole team to accept without debate. He lightened the load by being such an easy person to work with, and I can never thank him enough for that. He would want us to remember him not with sadness, but by celebrating his good nature, his sense of humour, his personal kindness to all, and for what he helped NYJO to achieve in 10 years, of which he was rightly very proud.”

Nigel Tully (NYJO Executive Chair & Friend)

NYJO Chat to Asha Emma & Roella

To close-out our review of September, we wanted to include an interview we conducted with three exciting young musicians, who at that time, had just made the semi-finals of BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020.

To read the interview in full, click the image below!

NYJO 2020 | A Year Review
Emma, Asha & Roella talk to NYJO
NYJO 2020 | A Year Review

Black History Month

Black History Month is an annual observance originating in the United States, where it is also known as African American History Month. BHM began as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora; celebrated in February in the United States and Canada, it is observed in October throughout the UK and Europe.

NYJO 2020 | A Year Review

Over a four week period we navigated the first gathering of enslaved Africans in Congo Square; the early brass band tradition; followed the music as it spread throughout the United States; then across the seas to Europe – focusing on some of the key protagonists and their unique stories and artistic endeavours along the way.

James Romaine (NYJO, Alto Sax) plays a favourite Johnny Hodges solo.

We were lucky enough to hear from a few band-members who wanted to nominate their own favourite black musicians for us to champion. We had Fergus Quill (JX) nominate afro-futurist, Sun Ra; Mischa Jardine (JX) nominate fellow cellist and inspiration, Ayanna Witter-Johnson; and NYJO Alto Saxophonist, James Romaine, put forward the wonderful Johnny Hodges (see video entry above).

To read each Black History Month instalment for this year, you can find every post here! Also make sure you check out our Instagram page for exclusive posts running across the whole of October.

Special thanks to Peter Edwards for helping put together our Jazz History entries and all those who contributed to various content throughout the campaign.

NYJO 2020 | A Year Review

November was a time when any optimism that we’d be able to get together physically was quashed once more with Lockdown 2.0 enforced until the Christmas period (… or not).

With our doors now firmly shut once again (outside of the odd run to the shops) we got together to share what had been keeping us going, so hopefully, they could do the same for you and yours!

Click the images below to check out all of our Lockdown II recommendations.

NYJO 2020 | A Year Review
NYJO 2020 | A Year Review
NYJO 2020 | A Year Review

To wrap things up, we were lucky enough to get not one, but two lovely pieces of news for members of the NYJO family.

On the 2nd December we celebrated NYJO Alumn, Charlie Bates’ win at the Ivors Composer Awards 2020. His composition “Crepuscule” – recorded with NYJO back in Sept ’19 – was announced the winner in the Jazz Composition for a Large Ensemble category – and we couldn’t be more thrilled for him!

If you would like to review the awards in total for this year, the winners were revealed on Tuesday 1 December as part of a two-hour ceremony broadcast exclusively on BBC Radio 3, which you can listen to here!

NYJO 2020 | A Year Review
Charlie directs the band at AIR Studios, London (2019)

Recognised as a pinnacle of achievement since they were first presented in 1956, an Ivor Novello Award represents peer recognition with categories judged by those within the UK music creator community.

The Ivors Composer Awards 2020 celebrate works that are composed by a UK born or ordinarily resident composer and received a UK premiere performance, either live or broadcast, between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020.

Charlie became NYJO’s first ever Composer chair-holder, working on a variety of projects throughout 2019. The now award-winning track “Crepuscule” was recorded at AIR Studios (North London) during NYJO’s recording sessions for soon-to-be-released album, “She Said“, which sets out to champion a host of expressive female voices, across multiple generations.

NYJO 2020 | A Year Review

Charlie and NYJO are currently planning the release of “Crepuscule” in 2021, so keep an eye out for details in the New Year!

Roger & Orphy Become Trustees for the Jazz Production Network

December also confirmed that NYJO senior trustee, Orphy Robinson, and Head of Professional Development, Roger Wilson, will both join the JPN board from 2021.

“It’s an honour to be voted onto the new JPN board. I am really looking forward to contributing and supporting the long term aims, plans and initiatives that can provide meaningful support and help to the network of hard working small and large scale promoters in the UK.”

Orphy Robinson OBE

Roger and Orphy will be joining an ambitious team that have been specifically selected to support and advise the JPN’s staff, vote on decisions affecting the organisation and membership, represent the JPN publicly, and help develop fresh ideas for new projects and initiatives throughout a three year term.

NYJO 2020 | A Year Review

Becoming a board member is an excellent way to have a meaningful impact across the jazz sector, with applications welcomed from individuals based in Ireland, Wales and Scotland as well as those from England. 

“I’m so pleased to be elected to the JPN board and I’m really looking forward to working with my new colleagues in the promotion of jazz and creative music.”

Roger Wilson

Well there we have it! Despite the huge amount of disruption this year, we’re thankful that we’re able to look back knowing we were able to progress in so many ways.

As we wrote previously, the future of jazz has always reflected the changing times that have shaped its creators’ sensibilities, and with this mantra in mind, we’re excited to bring you a new version of the charity for 2021. One which will be more creative, more ambitious and better serve the contemporary jazz landscape, the eclectic mix of artists within it and the audiences that support their work and shares common attitudes.

Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other.

Best wishes,
The NYJO Team.

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