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.

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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!

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The (Devon County) Show must go on!

Each year DYJO looks forward to playing at the Devon County Show, and each year we watch the forecast in the days leading up to it. The omens this year weren’t great, to say the least!

In the end we escaped with only a minor drenching (having been forecast strong winds and heavy rain earlier in the week). A hardy audience braved the elements to hear energetic sets from both DYJO2 and DYJO1.

Perhaps next year the sun will shine on us…

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National Youth Jazz Collective success!

It’s with enormous delight that we can announce that no less than five members of DYJO have been successful in their auditions for the National Youth Jazz Collective Summer School!

NYJC has been at the forefront of small band jazz education for several years under the dynamic leadership of Issie Barratt. In past years a number of our players been selected for the intensive summer school: Ben Lee, Stephanie Wills, Raddon Stephenson and Matt Carter have all benefited from the superbly structured courses.

With only a limited number of places available nationally for the courses (there’s a full course and a slightly shorter one), we are immensely proud of our young players, and delighted that five have managed to get through in the same year.

Last year drummer Kai did the short course and found it an amazing experience. He returns this year on the full course, and will be joined on the courses by trombonists Joe and Will, alto saxophonist Jonathan, and Harry on piano. Good luck to them all – I’ll bring you updates in August, when they will be going on their learning adventure to Rutland!

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Gigs and exams…

May is that time of year when the season of music festivals really starts in earnest… and also the season of public exams for people at school. Of course, in DYJO we have a significant proportion of our players in these vital years at school, so it’s a delicate balance between music and school work for all of them. We don’t want to miss any high quality gig opportunities, but equally the players know that the academic pressure is on and they can only afford so much time out.

One gig we certainly would not want to miss is our traditional appearance at the fabulous Dart Music Festival. Our concerts at The Flavel are always to a capacity audience, many of whom come from far and wide. It is also a delightful space to play in, and brings out the best in the bands.

This year, in a slight change to tradition, we performed on the Sunday afternoon instead of the evening, and certainly from our point of view worked well, as players knew they could go home and spend time revising before the next day’s exams. It is notable that I think we have a disproportionately high number of high achievers in DYJO, and I put some of this down that we attract people who not only have to be good at prioritising and managing their time, but that they also recognise that music actually nourishes their brains, working different mental muscles from those that academic studies exercise.

Anyway, to cut a long story short: yet again the bands excelled themselves in two wide-ranging sets, from the quirky bass feature for James Harris in DYJO2’s The Shortest Dissonance Between Two Points and a swingy Time After Time from Alexandra Pavic, to DYJO1’s thrilling West Side Story and groovy Samba del Gringo.

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The Ambassadors entertain…

The Ambassadors have multiple roles within DYJO: not only are they trained to deliver introductory practical jazz sessions at Devon schools, but they are also trained by Roz Harding to be a fully functioning small band, capable of delivering top-flight jazz. The education of the players chosen as Ambassadors is thus necessarily widened to develop these skills. And they demonstrate those skills with great aplomb!

Tonight they had been commissioned to play during pre-dinner drinks at the classy Bovey Castle, for the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT). They played a varied set, and were given a very nice vote of thanks and round of applause, before we all headed home for rather more humble dining.

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Reaching out…

DYJO’s core function is the education of our players, but also a very important part of our purpose is to get good jazz out there to the general public. In these days when there are so many entertainments on offer, it can be quite a challenge to reach a wide audience, so DYJO is always looking for partners to promote concerts throughout Devon. As well as festivals such as the Dart Music Festival and the Teignmouth Jazz Festival, we also get requests to do charity concerts with partners such last night’s with the Honiton Lions at the Beehive in Honiton.

The advantages of such concerts are many – not only do we get the chance to raise funds for worthy causes (last night’s concert was specifically in aid of Honiton’s TRIP), but we get to play for an audience many of whom might not have come to one of our concerts otherwise. This concert was no exception: of a sell-out audience, about 75% had never heard us before, and they were clearly very impressed with the quality of the musicianship and the professionalism of our young players. It might sound a little immodest to say that within DYJO we know how good the bands are – and we celebrate that, of course – but it is so important that many more people know the level of accomplishment of our young musicians, and that they can celebrate that talent in Devon too.

And, of course, while they are doing that, they are getting to hear a wide range of jazz – last night’s gig ranged from Benny Goodman to Gordon Goodwin, and from Count Basie to Radiohead, and with a range of solo jazz voices from throughout both bands. So, as you see, our educational role goes much further than just our players!

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