A new phase in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra’s life began on Monday 12 April. After 45 years, the indomitable Bill Ashton MBE is handing on the baton to two people. Dr. Fiona Ord-Shrimpton becomes NYJO’s newly-appointed Executive Director, and Royal College Professor of Jazz Mark Armstrong assumes responsibility for the band’s musical direction.
Bill Ashton will remain as Founder MD and Life President of NYJO. Nigel Tully, who has been a NYJO Board Director since 2000, will continue as Executive Chair of NYJO.
Transforming what until now has been an individually inspired organisation into a truly national educational institution will be a fascinating challenge. The Board of NYJO, with support from Jazz Services, are committed to making the change one that is positive for youth jazz in the UK.
NYJO is particularly lucky to have such a fine musician as Mark Armstrong (pictured)available to step into Bill’s musical shoes, with almost 20 years experience of playing in and then directing NYJO. Dr. Fiona Ord-Shrimpton has been appointed as Executive Director following a rigorous recruitment process for one of the highest-profile jobs in British jazz education. A jazz fan, Fiona has a PhD in Molecular Pharmacology from Glasgow University, and a strong background in fundraising in the third sector, demonstrating her ability to focus on and deliver complex projects – just what NYJO needs for the next phase of its development.
Bill Ashton was understandably in two minds as he watched NYJO’s computers and files leaving his Harrow home. “I know that this is the right thing for NYJO, and I support the transformation that the Board is driving through, but it’s still a wrench. Nevertheless, Fiona’s skills are an asset in which I have full confidence, and there is no finer musician than Mark to continue and develop NYJO’s musical heritage”.
Fiona Ord-Shrimpton (pictured) knows that she faces a challenge, and is excited and confident that she and Mark can take NYJO to even greater heights. “This is the job I have been waiting for” she said – “I’m looking forward to hearing ideas from all the band members, and working with Mark and the Musical Policy Committee which is driving NYJO’s musical progression, to get NYJO due recognition on the world stage as the national first team for youth jazz development”.
Mark Armstrong is delighted and honoured to be involved in taking NYJO forward. ‘This is a great opportunity to get stuck in with the musical direction of the band and I hope that we can build on our reputation and produce some great performances for the Orchestra and do even more for youth jazz in general’.
The transition has now been made to the centre of London and NYJO’s new location is 5 Vigo St, W1S 3HD, within easy reach of many major music venues.