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)