DYJO at the Devon County Show 2019

I’ll let the photos do the talking today. Both bands were on top form… the weather might have been grey, but the music was hot, and the reception from a large audience was warm and enthusiastic!

DYJO @ Dart Music Festival 2019

DYJO have been playing at the excellent Dart Music Festival for many years, and it’s always an immense pleasure. Of course, the festival itself is extraordinary – the town is absolutely full of music in every corner, from the Friday night to the Sunday evening, and every stage is free (the £80,000 cost of the festival is covered through voluntary donations and fundraising).

And somehow, Dartmouth, and the lovely Flavel Arts Centre always brings out the best of DYJO to an ever-appreciative audience. And so it was yesterday. DYJO2 opened with a really tight 50-minute set, with so many highlights, both in the ensemble playing and in great solos from around the band. After the interval, DYJO1 pulled out all the stops with a barnstorming set that sent the audience away with their feet tapping and smiles on their faces!

If you are at the Devon County Show next Saturday (16 May 2019), both bands will be appearing in The Parasol from 2.30pm – we hope to see you there!



DYJO & NYJO @ Uffculme

Exciting jazz times in Devon – the Devon Music Education Hub has teamed up with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra for a five-year strategic partnership to promote jazz education in Devon, and tonight marked the first time in that that DYJO and NYJO shared a concert. ur DYJO Ambassdors performed a short but breathtaking set at the start of the concert, including their own, original composition as one of their three tunes – a good-sized audience gave them a great reception. After the interval, NYO performed their new show ‘State of the Nation’ (effectively a round-up of the many facets of British big band jazz at the moment), and wowed the audience with their energy and virtuosity through their vary varied set.

Tomorrow should be equally exciting: NYJO will be joining DYJO at their Gathering Day, taking both bands through their paces under the expert guidance of their leader, Mark Armstrong.



DYJO @ Beverley Park

A joyful night last night, in the ballroom of Beverley Park in Paignton. This biennial gig has been going on since the 1990s at least, when the parent of a DYJO player, who owned Beverley Park at the time, offered the free use of the ballroom to fund-raise for DYJO: it’s been going on ever since, and we are extremely grateful for the continuing tradition, despite the present owners having no direct connection with DYJO! It certainly is a stunning venue for a big band concert, both in appearance, and acoustic.

The DYJO team had made a great effort in making the ballroom look festive, and the bands really rose to the occasion. DYJO2 kicked off the evening with a varied set, tightly played with great enthusiasm, and great solos from around the band. It was lovely for me to get back in front of the band at last after my extended lay-off for illness – it was so much fun, and I hope to return to full form soon, so I don’t miss any more!

The Ambassadors came on stage straight after, and played from memory their own composition – a fascinating piece, with an unsingable but really catchy head for the horns!

Ben Lee, who directs the Ambassadors, returned to the stage after the interval to direct DYJO1 in Graham’s absence, and the whole team did a great job. In fact, Daniel, one of the players, directed the first piece, with great aplomb, with Ben taking over for the rest of the barnstorming set.

And as for the fundraising – despite the bargain ticket price, a very large turnout of family and friends, and enthusiastic purchasing of raffle and treasure hunt tickets, means that a very tidy sum has been raised for our ongoing activities: we’re always looking for opportunities to our players’ learning, and what we can present to public audiences, and keeping our finances in good health will help us do that well into the future!

Thanks to Pik Rawlings for the photos!



DYJO @ Exeter Phoenix

What a superb concert that was! Stunning performances from both DYJO2, under the leadership of Alex Delling (brilliantly standing in for a still-unwell me!) and DYJO1 under Graham Hutton, a full house enjoyed an immensely varied programme in aid of the Exeter City Community Trust.

I’ll let the photos do the talking for now. If you missed the concert, and would like not only to see what we look like, but hear us too, we’ll be in Beverley Park in Paignton on Saturday 2 March! Even if you do know what we sound like, it would be grand to see you there!

Residential: it’s all over!

The last report from the front line of our Heatree Residential of 2018…

We like to provide a varied educational experience at our annual residential. Yes, of course, the focus is on the music, but music is so much more than just playing dots on the page or inventing new things to say in improvised solos. Making new friendships, developing confidence, and learning new skills are all part of the experience.

After my previous post, we cooked marshmallows and toast around a magnificent camp fire (thanks Graham and Peter!), had a very entertaining and impressive session in modern jazz dance (with each band playing for the other’s dance), had final rehearsals, and gave end-of-course performances to parents.

The end results? A pile of pieces rehearsed, solos tried out, new skills learnt, new friendships formed, and two impressive bands with distinct identities, a combination of their individual and group chemistries.

Massive thanks to everyone involved: Heatree and its staff, tutors Graham, Matt, Ben and Alex, DYJO Association volunteers in particular Nic, Maria, Hannah and Peter, and, most importantly, players and parents: for all of us who work with DYJO, we do it because of the absolute delight of helping young people learn and grow together through music, and without those lovely young people, there wouldn’t be a Devon Youth Jazz Orchestra.

Next up, after one more rehearsal, will be our annual opening concert at the Teignmouth Jazz Festival, on Friday 16 November. Watch this space for details: we hope to see you there!

Residential, Day 2

I was slightly amused re-reading yesterday’s blog entry, where I said that the first day of the residential is a jam-packed one, as if this is different from other days here. Ha, of course not – every day here with DYJO is jam-packed! Not least today…

First off: the Learning Thing. This is all about peer-to-peer learning, and being self-reliant on how to achieve great results. The players go off in their sections (saxes, trumpets, trombones, and rhythm), and sort out their separate parts. Then we split the players into two mixed bands (each a mix of DYJO1 & DYJO2) who rehearse for about 40 minutes, and then perform the end result to everyone else, including us tutors (Graham, Alex, Ben, Matt and me). The tutors have the unenviable task of trying to pick a winner from the two bands (named as ‘Ant’ and Dec’ this year). Hot off the press: Dec narrowly won this year, with impressive tightness of ensemble, effective dynamics and great solos.

After a post-lunch rehearsal session, with DYJO2 all together, and DYJO1 in sectionals, it was then time for this year’s small-band Ambassadors to meet for the first time with Ben, while everyone else had their sense of rhythm and pulse challenged by Matt, Alex & Graham in rhythm & clapping games.

Enough for a day? Not for DYJO!

After a lovely cooked supper from the Heatree kitchen (no-one will go hungry here!), we will have short table tennis and basketball competitions, and to end the evening a campfire. Maybe Dartmoor will be resonating to a jazz version of Kumbayah later…

DYJO at Heatree 2018

Here we are again, at the end of the October half term, for our annual DYJO Residential, with 33 young musicians who have come to the wonderful Heatree near Manaton on Dartmoor, with a hunger to learn more about jazz. As well as the all young players here, we’ve got five tutors and five DYJO Association helpers to make sure that all goes according to plan!

The first day is always a jam-packed one, with an early arrival & registration, followed by intensive full and sectional rehearsals, and an evening jam. We’ll all be ready to collapse into our beds by the end of the evening. Meanwhile the music plays on… here are a couple of pictures of tonight’s jam… more news and pictures tomorrow, which starts with the traditional, snappily titled, Learning Thing!


Welcome to the new DYJOs!

Our first DYJO Recruitment Day is always an exciting one: Graham has his new promotions from DYJO2 to join the returning DYJO1 players from last season, and in DYJO2, I have the absolute delight of seeing new young musicians for the first time – they don’t know quite what to expect from DYJO, and I start the day having no idea what they can do!

Well, suffice to report that we had a splendid day with both bands. I was delighted with our new DYJO2: through the day we did some aural learning with my Quint Valley Blues (and explored blues improvisation), and made an excellent start on arranged charts covering swing, latin and funk grooves. Graham unwrapped a mixture of challenging charts, some familiar to old hands, and some brand new. At the end of the day, both bands played to parents – it’s always nice to overhear someone expressing amazement at how far they’ve come in just one day!

We still do have some spaces in DYJO2, in all sections, but particularly trombones, tenor saxes, piano and guitar – so if you do know any keen young musicians, point them our way, and suggest they come along to our next Recruitment Day on Saturday 13 October, 10am-4.30pm at St Nicholas’ RC Primary School, Ringswell Avenue, Exeter. (It would be very helpful if you could let us know you’re coming by emailing secretary@dyjo.org, if you do intend to be there!)

Here’s DYJO1 in full flow at the end of the day!


DYJO farewells…

Last night was the occasion when we said farewell to several players leaving DYJO for the next chapter in their lives. Playing to a packed Exeter School Music Hall, both bands gave wonderfully spirited performances from the past year’s repertoire, with friends and families cheering every solo from all round both bands. We witnessed the standard-but-exceptional strength-in-depth that we get accustomed to in DYJO.

It’s a larger than normal cohort who leave this year, but the sadness of losing so many fine & devoted players is tempered by three considerations: firstly, we hope we’ve helped inspire a lifelong love of jazz and big band, and that leaving players will continue to play wherever they go; secondly, their leaving gives the opportunity for DYJO2 players to fill their shoes and step up to the challenges set by Graham in DYJO1; and thirdly, we now have plenty of spaces in DYJO2 for new players to come and get their first taste of DYJO!

Maybe, just maybe, some of those young musicians don’t yet realise how profound an effect coming along to join in our little project might have on their lives…

In the meantime, big DYJO thanks to all the leaving players and their parents for all your dedication and inspiring performances (it’s that that gives DYJO its never-ending energy) – we hope that you have a great time wherever you are going, and you’ll come back whenever you can to inspire the next generations of young musicians!