At NYJO we pride ourselves on nurturing talented young musicians and equipping them with the skills they need to thrive in the professional world. As our musicians reach the age limit of 25, or simply get too busy, they graduate – but they will always be part of the family. We asked outgoing drummer Max Mills to reflect on his time at NYJO.
How Did You Come to Join NYJO?
I got told about it by one of the old NYJO percussionists, Felix Higginbottom, when I was 13. I went to a rehearsal for NYJO2 (now the NYJO Academy Big Band) that summer, and continued to go every Saturday since!!! I would also regularly sit in and watch the main band rehearse, which was a massive learning curve of the standard of playing I should be at.
What Unique Experiences has NYJO offered you?
The opportunity to play with some top-class jazz players both nationally and internationally, such as members from the Jazz at the Lincoln centre, Fabrizio Bosso in Milan, Mark Nightingale, Guy Barker and Nikki Iles. Also, we get to perform at Ronnie Scott’s every year.
Too many to choose from! But probably performing at the BBC Proms in 2018 playing Stan Kenton’s ‘West Side Story’.
When Jake Labazzi (trumpet) was in the band and we did the vocal chart of ‘Georgia on my mind’, he would open with solo flugelhorn playing the melody unaccompanied. One time, for fun, he played it all transposed a semitone up, but somehow managed to bring it back round to the original key before the band came in! Every time we did that chart since, he would take it up another semitone and it was always funny how he would bring it back. By the time he’d left he’d managed to get it up a 5th!!
How has NYJO helped you?
It greatly improved my reading and knowing how to interpret a drum chart. Most experienced reading drummers will know that playing absolutely everything on a drum part may not be what’s right for the music. And to say you’ve been through NYJO gives you a level of respect from other musicians that not many other organisations or institutions can offer.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m doing a 5-week tour around Germany with the ‘Definitive Rat Pack’ over Christmas and January. Then on a cruise to Cape Town with the Syd Lawrence Orchestra from mid-February till mid-March, and I’m getting a few deps in the West End. And then there’s the usual function band stuff which is always fun, usually with players that I’ve met or played with in NYJO.