NYJO Jazz Orchestra and NYJO Jazz Exchange explained by Mark Armstrong

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We sat down with our Artistic and Music Director, Mark Armstrong to better understand what the differences and similarities between the two programmes are and help you decide which one feels like the right fit.

For more info and to apply see the following links NYJO Jazz Orchestra // NYJO Jazz Exchange


Can you tell us in a few sentences what the NYJO Jazz Orchestra is about and what kind of young musicians the programme would be ideally suited for?

The Jazz Orchestra is the ideal vehicle for young players who enjoy being part of a large ensemble, playing in sections with tightness and groove, experiencing the range of colours from a full-on big band shout chorus to gentle and impressionistic textures, and paying solos that weave between the arrangements. You would enjoy mixing a wide variety of styles, playing music from the swing era up to contemporary music and getting to grips with all sorts of grooves, from swing to Latin and funk styles and beyond.

Contrary to popular opinion, instant sight-reading is not the crucial success factor here, it is more about approaching your role in the band with knowledge, confidence and energy and understanding how to interpret, listen and respond in the moment to the other musicians that surround you. Reading is like a muscle – it responds to exercise and use: your reading is guaranteed to improve through playing in the Jazz Orchestra!


If asked the same about the NYJO Jazz Exchange – could you tell us what kind of young musicians would benefit most from it?

This group is ideal for musicians who, either by inclination or the instrument they play, fall outside the parameters of the jazz orchestra or big band tradition. The focus here is on creativity: generating your own music and being willing to collaborate with a perhaps surprising range of instruments. If you are a string player or even an Indian classical musician this could be an opportunity to add your voice to a group that will explore how the members can come together to create new and exciting music with the spirit of jazz at its heart but drawing widely from lots of further influences.


What do you see as the primary differences between NYJO’s Jazz Orchestra, and the NYJO Jazz Exchange ensembles?

The Jazz Orchestra has a traditional but slightly expanded big band orchestration, playing written charts that, while very wide-ranging in style, rely on a balance of notated music and jazz solos.

The Jazz Exchange group will be significantly smaller than the Jazz Orchestra, allowing more focus on soloing and spontaneous musical choices with less reliance on notated material to organise the performance.


And how about the key similarities between the two?

In both groups a high level of technical assurance is required on your instrument, along with confidence to express yourself stylishly and with knowledge in improvised solos. Additionally, the ability to listen and react to other players, knowing when to take the lead and when to step back for the good of the music is crucial.


Any words of advice to a young musician reading this who still can’t decide whether to apply for the Jazz Orchestra or the Jazz Exchange?

Perhaps to apply to both! Your pre-audition video will be carefully listened to and if you make it clear you are undecided about which route is right for you, we can let you know where we feel you are best suited.

You might even be in both groups!


For more info and to apply

NYJO Jazz Orchestra // NYJO Jazz Exchange

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