NYJO’s Learning & Participation Manager, Beci Jamieson, visited Abergavenny last month to see the NYJO team in action delivering education work with Welsh school children as part of the Black Mountain Jazz Festival. Beci writes about the three days:
“It was great to accompany Pete Letanka, one of our NYJO Education Faculty, for three days to Abergavenny to work with 17 local young musicians. Ages ranged from 8-14 and instruments included traditional big band instruments with a few string players and several drummers. The majority of the young people had never experienced a jazz workshop before, and all said they would love to take part in this project again! Day one was about getting to know each other and exploring their musicianship. They were encouraged to both sing and improvise on their instruments. Then in the afternoon the group began composing their very own piece in seven time! Day two finished the composing and involved more rehearsals and rhythms, fun and laughter. Whilst it was daunting at first, the young people said that everyone should try it. The highlight of the few days was certainly the last day, however, when they worked with NYJO MD Mark Armstrong who led a short workshop that opened up more swing rhythms and improvisation to the young people before they became the leaders themselves as they taught their composition to the fully assembled NYJO big band. Mark and Pete worked as an incredible team as they instantly turned a composed piece for 17 players into a double big band piece. The young pianist and young drummers also had the chance to play their instruments whilst NYJO were playing – giving them ‘a once in a lifetime opportunity’. The evening performance went really well, with the young people helping to warm up the audience early in the evening before handing fully over the NYJO who left everyone wanting more. It was a pleasure to be so involved in this project and it made me a very proud member of the NYJO education team!“
Pete Letanka said “I’ve spent nearly twenty years running music projects whose aim is to enable a collaboration between professional and non-professional musicians. NYJO’s recent education project working with the Black Mountain Jazz Festival is by far the most successful collaboration I’ve ever been involved with. One of the reasons for this success is the proximity of ages between the professional and non-professional musicians. The skill of a 20 year old musician appears much more attainable to a 12 year than the skill of a 38 year old musician. For the children in the workshop, working alongside NYJO must be the biggest incentive to spend more time in a practice room!”
NYJO MD Mark Armstrong added “It was great to meet and work with the young musicians in Abergavenny. I was very impressed with the level of achievement over such a short time and I thought the 7/4 piece was really well constructed and interesting. I know the band enjoyed working with the young players and I hope the NYJO musicians were a good example of what can be achieved if the musical ideas Pete and I talked about are followed through from this very impressive start.”
We have much more education work planned this academic year throughout the UK so watch this space!
Abergavenny children rehearsing with NYJO on the main stage at Black Mountain Jazz Festival, August 2014