(Virtual) Event: National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO)

posted 23 Sep 2020 3 mins

C. Hoare & Co. was delighted to present the work of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) at a wonderfully uplifting virtual event on Wednesday 23 September.

Co-hosted by Simon Hoare (who, we learned, enjoyed an early career as a drummer) and jazz aficionado Lord Coe, the evening comprised exceptional performances from talented young musicians interspersed with inspiring accounts of NYJO’s aims and achievements.

Executive chair Nigel Tully explained how the organisation works with local music education bodies throughout England and Wales, enabling young musicians from widely diverse backgrounds to reach their full potential. NYJO’s overarching mission, he explained, is to “level the playing field, creating a joined-up infrastructure to ensure that whoever you are, wherever you are growing up, there is someone to teach you how to play jazz.” Music lessons, he pointed out, are prohibitively expensive for many families and NYJO works with partners across the country to deliver free or highly subsidised long-term opportunities for music-making. Nor has lockdown prevented provision of this vital resource; since March, an innovative online programme, the NYJO Virtual Academy, has enabled young players to continue making music together.

Claire Furlong, Head of Learning and Participation, outlined NYJO’s national education programme and its success in reaching diverse communities. The original London-based NYJO Academy has been joined by academies in Darlington, Penrith, Preston, Bradford-on-Avon and Humberside, and two more academies are in the pipeline. NYJO Messengers tour schools nationally, encouraging interest in jazz, while a special awards scheme provides two years of lessons for students in challenging circumstances such as children with Special Educational Needs, children in care, and children whose parents are refugees or asylum seekers.

Orphy Robinson, Vice-Chair and Ensemble Coach, emphasised the importance of earning the trust of local communities and looked forward to 2021, when NYJO will find a permanent home in the Woolwich Works, a new cultural development in Greenwich. “Putting down roots,” he said, “is one of the most important things we can do.”

Finally, our guest of honour and patron of NYJO, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, shared his admiration for the work of the orchestra. “When you see these young musicians performing, and the confidence with which they do it, you understand why NYJO is so brilliant.”, he said, “It’s not just playing the music, it’s what it does for them as individuals”. His tribute reprised a theme taken up by each one of our speakers: NYJO Honorary Vice-President Lord Coe compared the discipline of music making to the discipline of sport at the highest level; Claire Furlong pointed out that the ‘soft skills’ learned through jazz improvisation are highly prized in business management; and all were agreed that beyond the joy of performing, the young musicians were learning important lessons in empathy, teamwork, dedication and focus.

It was universally agreed, too, that the very best advocates for NYJO’s work are the young musicians themselves. We were very pleased to welcome a socially-distanced ensemble to 37 Fleet Street where they pre-recorded a programme of jazz hits specially for our event. The players’ accounts of their transformative experience with NYJO and their thrilling performance of classics such as Blue Skies, A Night in Tunisia and Feeling Good will not soon be forgotten.

© Recording and editing by Sova Audio Ltd.

This recording has been created with the kind permission of the speakers and musicians.  Views and opinions contained in the recording are those of the speakers and are not necessarily those of the bank or any of its partners, directors, or employees.