New season, new players, exciting plans!

September is always an exciting month, when we welcome many new young musicians to the DYJO fold: it’s good to report that we had an extremely healthy turn-out again this year, and most have been able to accept our invitations to join the band. There is still small handful of vacancies (email for details), but both bands are fully functional for what promises to be a jam-packed year of excitement.

As well as having many concerts lined up throughout Devon, it’s splendid to report that our plans for a foreign tour in 2017 are bearing fruit, and we can confirm that DYJO has been invited to play at both the Vienne Jazz Festival on Monday and Tuesday 10 & 11 July and the Montreux Jazz Festival on Sunday 9 July. And as well as playing at Vienne, the great news is that we’ll get passes to see the fabulous international jazz acts in the stunning Roman amphitheatre in Vienne.

Our next Gathering Day is on Saturday 15 October: it’s doubly exciting that the music we’re learning and playing will be heard at two of the world’s most famous jazz festivals!

In the meantime, here’s a picture of the main stage at Vienne (photo credit Pierre Corvaisier):


DYJO musicians at NYJC Summer School

The National Youth Jazz Collective, the brainchild of Issie Barratt, is celebrating its tenth birthday this year, and goes from strength to strength.  Its summer schools form an important part of its programme, and in the past now-DYJO-alumni Stephanie Wills, Ben Lee, Matt Carter and Raddon Stephenson have all benefited from its inspirational learning environment, and its world-class jazz educators.

This year was a record one for DYJO players’ participation – no less than five players passed the demanding auditions in Exeter for the short and long courses, held in Uppingham in Leicestershire in August. Below are reflections on their experiences of two of these young musicians. For Will it was his first time with NYJC, and Kai his second, having attended the short course last year. From DYJO’s perspective, NYJC’s Summer School provides a superb place to stretch our players: given our limited time and the number of players DYJO has (up to sixty spread over the two bands), it is wonderful to see some of them given the time and specialist attention to really extend their jazz skills and soloing voices. And of course, it is a pure joy to hear some of what they’ve learnt and future development long after they’ve been to NYJC’s transformational Summer School.

Will Pearce (trombone)

“The evening jam sessions were great fun, both as a spectator and participant – everyone was given a chance to do what they liked whether it be serious or not quite so serious. We were joined by different tutors who would take the sessions each evening and got to see them get involved too! It was amazing and rewarding being congratulated on solos by top musicians my age and the tutors too.

Really got to improve working in a small group. You can imagine the problems that arise from a small group of very large personalities in cases, and it was great to see us progress past them to the final product of the performance at the end of the week.

Confidence was my main problem for the first few days, as I felt I’d been dropped right in the deep end, but by the middle of the week everyone felt comfortable and settled in.

‘Wow’ moment has to be watching Group No. 1 performing, watching a group of people you’ve been around in the week bursting with energy and talent and completely in their element.

You discover lots of new artists and bands from chatting with people about the kind of music they’re into.”


Kai Craig (drums)

“I spent 2 amazing years with DYJO 1 and learned so much. It’s hard to put in to words how valuable the experience has been. I developed as a player and grew in confidence as a person. I learned lots of new material and how to work in a big band situation. DYJO also gave me incredible opportunities such as introducing me to the National Youth Jazz Collective Summer School and helping me very generously with funding for the course.

This summer I attended the NYJC Summer School, having been on the Short Course in 2015. I found myself working with some of the most incredible musicians I have ever worked with, and was mentored by professionals such as Mark Mondesir and Dave Holland. As a result of attending NYJC I was invited to the Royal Academy of Music to drop in on the Junior Jazz course and also to audition for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. I have now started attending the Junior Royal Academy. I was overwhelmed by the atmosphere of RAM and the incredible people within it. I have now been asked to start two new bands with members of the JRAM that I met on the NYJC this year. I will also be auditioning for the NYJO Big Band in November.

So many opportunities were given to me by DYJO and I will always be eternally grateful for what Graham, Brian and the DYJO family have given me. I will always be a part of the organisation in one way or another and I look forward to seeing what the bands create in the coming years.”

(Photos courtesy of Melody and Ian McLaren and NYJC)

DYJO alumni: Chris McMurran

I’ll be doing a series of posts here about past DYJO players. I’ve been with DYJO now for 14 years, and in that time I’ve had the pleasure of working with not just an amazing array of fabulous young musicians, but wonderfully interesting people, who never cease to surprise me with their many talents.

The assorted collection of DYJO alumni has so many people who could feature here, but I’m going to start with one person who was at the very first concert I went to where I heard DYJO (in fact, it was Gerry Swainger’s ‘DYJO Too’, as it was then called). The very small, and very young pianist, Gerry announced, had travelled all the way up from South Brent to play at St James Church Exeter, in a showcase concert: it was an 11-year-old Chris McMurran.

In due course, Chris naturally progressed to DYJO1, where as well as becoming as truly outstanding pianist, he also took his trumpet to a high level, switching easily between the two places in the band. And as if that was not enough, he also started turning his hand to big band composition and arranging, as well as conducting. And following that, the natural thing for him to do was to conduct his own arrangement of Bouncing With Bud with DYJO at the Montreux Jazz Festival, in 2010. As you do.

You might have imagined that Chris was destined for a career in music with that background and achievement. You’d be wrong. Instead, he headed off to Cambridge University, where he gained a First in Medicine, and is now doing a PhD there on ‘Remyelination and the microbiome’ at the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute.

Not that he’s given up the jazz – far from it! As well as keeping up a busy playing schedule, he’s also still composing, and last year won the Dankworth Prize for Composition, with his piece Continuum.

Anyway, that’s enough from me – now for some reflections from Chris himself…

“I first sat behind the piano in DYJO Too at age 11, where I was surprised to find music with no notes on it! After a quick lesson from Gerry Swainger in “how chord symbols work”, I was soon completely taken by the music and the atmosphere of DYJO.

For the next seven years I looked forward to Saturdays of music-making and seeing friends from across the county. The passion of Graham, Brian, Gerry and others for the music they were introducing us to was contagious, and I always thought we were having far more fun the the other county ensembles next door! The tours and residentials helped forge friendships that have continued long since.

DYJO was also full of opportunities: I rotated between piano and trumpet, had chances to run rehearsals and conduct, and an ensemble eager to play my first ventures into big band writing. These were all instrumental for my musical life since DYJO, which has involved directing the Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra, and winning the Dankworth Prize for jazz composition. The lessons I learned in DYJO also span from musical to medical: teamwork, attention to detail, performing and teaching skills to name a few.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone  who has contributed their time and energy to DYJO over the years – long may this continue!”

And as a new season approaches…

This Saturday will see the start of the new season, when the two new DYJOs launch into action! More news of that very soon. But in the meantime…

It’s great to hear from alumni – we’ll have plenty of posts coming up over the year, but this first one looks back to the summer of 2015, when DYJO had their incredible tour to the Nisville Jazz Festival in Serbia. Well, this year, alumnus guitarist, Stojan, who played with DYJO1 there, returned as a helper, and this is his story…

So last week was the Nišville Jazz Festival where I played with DYJO last year. This year I volunteered there, and I’ve written a bit about it…

Volunteers needed to arrive about a week before the festival actually begins to settle in and start getting things ready. I stayed in the same student accommodation where we stayed last year so I had no problem finding it when my bus arrived in Niš.

There were about fifteen of us staying there in total out of the three hundred volunteers – the ones who didn’t have a place to stay in Niš and  I spent most of my time with them. The ones who were there last year said they remembered us, it’s hard not to notice the canteen being full of 40 English kids.

Whenever I mentioned to people I met that I was with DYJO last year they all remembered different things about us. Some remembered watching our main stage gig on the last day while it was pouring with rain and the wind was blowing hard. A couple of volunteers straight away asked to have a photo with me when they realised I was from DYJO. Some others remember seeing us and taking those little black fluffy ball things playing a trumpet or something that we handed out as a DYJO souvenir, which they still keep somewhere in their rooms. Those little fluffy things are definitely having an impact, keep them coming.

On the night after the festival finished there was a volunteers party. As I was walking home at 5am with a group of friends, the main sound engineer was with us. When I mentioned that I was from that big band from Devon last year his face lit up and he said ‘oh finally, why didn’t you say hi earlier? I’ve been waiting for you to come back’ and told me to bring him a DYJO shirt next year, size L.

I also recognised some people from last year, mainly the clarinet player and the drummer who came to our workshop and played with us. I’d forgotten about them until I saw them and we became pretty good friends. I spent most of my time helping to run the workshops so I got to watch them all and take part – including the workshop with saxophonist Soweto Kinch who presented the MFY festival in Birmingham when DYJO played there a few weeks ago.

Apart from Soweto Kinch, the other big names that played this year were guitarist Al Di Meola, saxophonist Bill Evans and Joss Stone.

So overall DYJO is still remembered down here in Niš and Nišville continues to be an awesome festival, where I hope to return next year.


Another season is drawing to a close…

It’s always mixed feelings at this time of year, as the season comes to a close.

On the one hand, we are going to say goodbye to several wonderful musicians, who have given DYJO their all. This year those leaving this year include three off to music colleges to study jazz, and others off to places like Cambridge to study things like engineering or mathematics. So we will be sad to see them go, and at the same will time celebrate their achievements, and wish them well for their futures.

On the other hand, we can also look forward to two new bands from September: for some it will be a move from DYJO2 to DYJO1, and for DYJO2 it will be welcoming new players. For both bands it’s an exciting process, and for the individual players, it’s a new chapter in their musical journey. Who knows where we’ll be at this time next year?

As for this year… well, we know where we were tonight: at St Andrew’s Church, Colyton. A new venue for us, and what a venue it proved to be! A full house of wonderfully enthusiastic people, a grand mixture of locals and ever-supportive DYJO parents and friends. And, of course, both DYJO2 and DYJO1 played their socks off. A good send off for the bands of 2015-16.


Will Pearce wins place at jazz composers’ summer school

Not content with auditioning for and gaining a place at the National Youth Jazz Collective Summer School, DYJO1 trombonist Will Pearce has been accepted onto the Sound and Music Jazz Composers’ Summer School, being held at the Purcell School in Hertfordshire in August.

Will submitted a four movement jazz suite for trombone and piano, recording it with a fellow pupil at Exeter School. Will joins a list of DYJO musicians who have turned their hand to jazz composition. In the past Harry Dowell, James Morrison and Chris McMurran conducted their own compositions with DYJO at the Montreux Jazz Festival – who knows, maybe Will will have the opportunity to the same!