Jazz Education Conference at Leeds College of Music

Report by Kim Macari Photographs by Porl Medlock

On 21st March 2013, Jazz North hosted an event as part of the Leeds International Jazz Education Conference at Leeds College of Music. The theme of the session was What can Jazz North offer Music Education Hubs?. This was an opportunity for representatives from Music Education Hubs, delivery organisations and jazz educators from across the North to meet and discuss the diverse programmes of work currently offered, as well as to meet the Jazz North team and learn their plans for Jazz Education partnerships and schemes.

Nigel Slee opened the session with a brief presentation about Jazz North, describing the structure of the new jazz development agency. He highlighted the aim of Jazz North as being about building a new jazz delivery model based on collective partnerships and to increase the profile of contemporary jazz artists living in the North. Jazz North will work with a number of delivery partners in areas including artist development, networks and sector development, audience development and children/young people. In the last 6 months, Jazz North has worked with Live Music Now on a schools outreach project in North Yorkshire, a youth jazz orchestra project in Sunderland with the Great North Big Band Festival and a brass project led by the New York Brass Band in the North East.

Dennis Rollins at Jazz North's LIJEC Seminar. Photo by Porl Medlock

“I’m personally very proud, even at this stage, of Jazz North. I feel it’s a great opportunity to display our wares…Not only nationally but also internationally. We have all of the facility now to touch the world, and it’s important that we don’t just settle within our community here, but that we push out of the North of England and display the talent and enthusiasm that we’ve got.” – Dennis Rollins

Live Music Now


Live Music Now’s Lucy Galliard brought along one of LMN’s jazz groups, Katie Patterson’s Allsorts, to demonstrate the work they do with children and young people. LMN, which deliver over 2,000 outreach performances every year, is a consortium partner with Jazz North and has helped in an outreach programme in which young music educators were mentored by an experienced LMN musician, Tom Sherman. This work provides professional development for the musicians as well as opportunities for groups of children and young people to experience high quality live music which they normally wouldn’t have access to (due to disability, disadvantage or geographic isolation.) Katie Patterson’s group aptly demonstrated the interactive element at the core of Live Music Now with a range of musical games and activities (with the reluctant participation of Lucy herself!) 

One Education Music

One Education Music’s Helena Summerfield and Steve Wilson presented an informative session on the work they do in Manchester. One Education Music are the main delivery partner for Manchester Music Hub and are an example of the positive work being done by Music Hubs in jazz education. Helena explained that the new system of Music Education Hubs has allowed there to be a lot more room for jazz education within the music provision for young people, and went on to describe a number of projects being carried out –

  • Manchester Youth Jazz Collective – with the help of Issie Barrett (NYJC), MYJC was set up to to provide jazz tuition to promising young musicians and provides residential courses.
  • Trinity High School Jazz Ensemble – this ensemble set up in the school has proved successful. They have participated in Cheltenham Jazz Festival and were awarded a certificate of merit at the Will Michael Jazz Education Awards.
  • Manchester Jazz Festival Showcase – a yearly event which invites schools to participate in music workshops led by jazz musicians.
  • Strong relationships formed with Band On The Wall, Brighter Sounds and Northern School of Jazz
  • Free tickets for young people to attend jazz concerts at RNCM and Chetham’s School of Music.
  • CPD programmes for teachers and music educators to prepare staff to use jazz and improvisation within their tuition.

Music For Life – Jo McCallum

Musician, band leader and composer Jo McCallum discussed a project she is running with Grants for the Arts funding from Arts Council England – Music For Life Commissions. This funding has allowed Jo to commission 12 UK jazz composers to write a piece for the Music for Life Big Band, a youth jazz orchestra for young musicians between 12 and 18. The composers include Mike Gibbs, Dennis Rollins (who provided a live taster of his commission in the session), Stan Sulzmann and Music For Life almuni Jamie Safiruddin. With Jo as MD, the big band will tour in July playing these pieces with guitarist Mike Walker. Looking beyond this project, Jo has arranged for all 12 pieces to be available to all youth jazz orchestras around the UK from August onwards to ensure that as many young musicians as possible to get the chance to play the music of the UK’s leading composers. Sadly, after funding ends for this project, Music for Life Big Band will be unable to continue due to loss of funding from their local Music Education Hub.

The Sage, Gateshead – Dr James Birkett

Dr James Birkett spoke emphatically about The Sage and their work in jazz education. The Sage was set up with an unprecedented 50% outreach policy, and so it is, in essence, a music education centre. Laying out the current activities, they include –

  • A BMus in Jazz and Related Music
  • A weekly weekend music school for young people which has been successfully running for 10 years. This includes provision for absolute beginners to those with experience in jazz.
  • Strategic partnerships with 5 our of 6 Music Education Hubs in the North East
    Gateshead International Jazz Festival with a programme that includes activities for toddlers, young musicians and masterclasses, as well as performance opportunities for the best homegrown musicians.
  • JamBone – The Sage’s youth jazz orchestra which is an auditioned band that invites named musicians and artists to lead projects and performances.
  • An importance placed on sustainability through CPD programmes with music educators and schools.

James also highlighted the need for CPD for primary school teachers who, while responsible for music in their school, were ‘frightened’ of jazz.

Leeds College of Music – Jamil Sheriff

Course Leader and jazz musician Jamil Sheriff closed the session by exploring the role of Leeds College of Music in preparing young musicians for music conservatoires as well as supporting them throughout their degree. By interviewing a group of current jazz students, the staff at LCoM looked into the experience and exposure to jazz prior to auditioning for music college. Briefly outlining the degree course, he described the course as being centred around small group improvisation, as many jazz degrees are. Two examples were played of students participating in course modules including a first year improvisation assignment and a final year student’s minor recital. By mapping the progression of a few students, some patterns emerged

  • The front-line players interviewed described their involvement in regional jazz groups and school bands, whereas rhythm section players came to improvisation and music-making on their own. This highlights the importance of jazz provision at a young age to ensure that young musicians are given opportunities to explore improvised music.

  • Each of the students were involved in sort of small group jazz playing whilst at school. For LCoM staff involved in auditions, they find that even musicians who have participated in big bands and jazz orchestras are not equipped to improvise. Those who have small group experience are more successful at audition.

  • All interviewees described an interest in jazz from a young age, but didn’t receive tuition or exposure to this until ages 15-16.

Jamil expressed a desire to forge links with Jazz North, Music Hubs and regional youth jazz orchestras in order to provide support and specialised tuition for young musicians who show an aptitude for jazz, in order to ensure that they have the ability to pursue jazz at degree level and beyond.


Jazz North would like to thank all attendees at this sessions, as well as the speakers and LCoM for hosting the event.

If you would like to be kept in touch with further communications about jazz and children and young people please get in touch via the contact form.