Jazz North Appoints a New Chair and Three New Trustees

Representation Leads to Change – A Bold New Direction for the Northern Jazz Scene

With the next three years of funding secured from Arts Council England, we can reveal that our board of trustees has undergone a re-fresh, recruiting leading minds in the music industry who make it their business to address lack of representation in the industry and champion diversity.

We have been given the mandate to take the Northern Jazz Scene in a new direction and with the enthusiasm and guidance of our new chair, Aaron Casserly Stewart, a jazz vocalist, manager, producer, educator, activist & former singer with the three time Grammy Award winning group The Sounds Of Blackness at the helm, the future is bright!

A comment from our former chair, Debra King, ‘Having been the Chair for Jazz North for 5 years, I am delighted that Aaron Casserly Stewart has taken on this role. With a wide range of experience across the jazz world as a vocalist, producer, educator and activist, Aaron is a perfect appointment to deliver the new and exciting Jazz North vision and mission.’  

A Comment from our CEO, Chris Bye, ‘Everyone at Jazz North is incredibly grateful for the years of inspiration and leadership Debra has brought to both the organisation and the entirety of the Northern Jazz sector. 

Now we look to the next chapter and I am thrilled to welcome Aaron to the position of Chair. We are massively proud to have him championing our vision of opportunity, diversity, inclusion and raising the profile of the world-class talent we have within the northern ecology. 

Aaron is joining the board of trustees alongside Jackie Thompson, Sonia Mellor and Roger Wilson. Read on for more information on the skill sets that they will bring to the table to assist Jazz North in delivering its mission at this exciting time.

Aaron Casserly Stewart

Aaron is a jazz vocalist, manager, producer, educator, activist & former singer with the three time Grammy Award winning group The Sounds Of Blackness. He is the founder of Paradise Hill Productions; an artist development business that works with emerging & established artists & the former personal assistant to Morris Hayes (Prince’s keyboardist & band leader of the New Power Generation).

Winner of a 2012 NAACP Image Award, Aaron is the Chair of Black Lives Matter Leeds; Vice Chair of the Leeds Conservatoire & serves on the boards of the Manchester Jazz Festival, Come Play With Me, Showroom Cinema & the Gilbert Baker Foundation. In addition, he is an advisor for PRS Foundation, Music: Leeds, Launchpad & the former City Commissioner/Mayor of Parsons, Kansas. 

In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, gardening & spending time with his husband Peter.

Jackie Thompson

Jackie Thompson is a marketing and communications professional with over 11 years of experience working in the cultural sector.   

She is Corporate Communications Manager at Sage Gateshead and has held various managerial roles within their marketing team leading campaigns for its Creative Learning and Artist Development programmes, as well as flagship festivals including Gateshead International Jazz Festival. She has experience in digital/traditional marketing, social media marketing, brand management and media relations.

Jackie took part in the inaugural Europe Jazz Network’s staff exchange programme, working as a member of the Marketing team for the Trondheim Jazz Festival and has returned as their guest this year. 

Jackie holds a BA (Hons) in Business Studies from Nottingham Trent University and has completed the Marketing Week Mini MBA in Brand Management.

Roger Wilson

Roger Wilson is co-founder of Black Lives in Music, an initiative dedicated to addressing better representation throughout the music industry.  His experience is on both sides of the stage as musician, educator, tour manager and administrator. 

Conservatoire trained, he has worked extensively in the commercial, jazz and classical sector with a wide range of artists including James Brown and Quincy Jones. As an instrumental teacher and lecturer, Roger has worked throughout the UK music education sector at all levels. In recent years his work has focused on the professional development of aspiring young musicians. 

He is and continues to be a champion of social justice.

Sonia Mellor

Sonia Mellor is a freelance music education consultant with over 30years experience working with Music Education hubs, latterly as Head of Rotherham Music in South Yorkshire.

Born in North Wales, her introduction to jazz came playing with Bill Baseys’ Big Band before studying Trumpet at Leeds College of Music with jazz legend Dickie Hawdon.

She is passionate about introducing young musicians to jazz from the beginning and encouraging pathways to a life enriched with creative music making. She has worked with The National Youth Jazz Collective and Jazz North’s award winning, Jazz Camp for Girls.


The future is bright for Northern Jazz

We are delighted to announce that we have been successful in securing Arts Council England funding.

For the last ten years we have been the development agency for Jazz in the North of England. With the value of British music exports increasing year on year, we now look forward to a bright future as we place ourselves at the forefront of the new wave of groundbreaking and diverse music coming out of the North.

We bring together the disparate musical cultures of the North of England and showcase them to the world’s stage, we ensure the resilience of the scene by giving inclusive opportunities to those wanting to participate in all aspects of the music industry be it artist, promoter or crew.

A statement from our CEO, Chris Bye:

“I am more than pleased to report that Arts Council England has chosen to continue its support for Jazz North. Everyone in the team is looking forward to the next phase of the organisation and this essential funding will enable us to increase the development of careers in jazz and raise the profile of a northern scene that both reflects and supports the diversity of the entire region.

I speak for everyone at Jazz North when I say thank you to Arts Council England for its recognition of Jazz North’s essential role in enabling a thriving northern jazz scene; championing excellence on national and global stages; and inspiring a curiosity and love for the incredible music that is jazz.”

A statement from our Vice-Chair Jon Beck:

“We are delighted that Arts Council England have decided to continue its financial support for Jazz North. This funding will help sustain a vital platform in the North of England that assists up and coming jazz artists from a variety of backgrounds, inspires young people to take an interest in jazz and maintains and develops jazz networks.”

A total of £446 million per annum of investment has been made to 990 organisations across the country.

A statement from Arts Council England Chief Executive, Darren Henley: “Together, each of the 990 organisations that have been offered funding today will contribute to a portfolio that is rich, varied and truly national. This is our widest ever spread of investment across the country, ensuring that many more people will have access to a wider choice of exceptional art, culture and creative opportunities on their doorsteps. We are in tough times but we must remember creativity brings with it extraordinary dividends, boosting our country’s economic growth, creating jobs, bringing communities closer together, and making us happier as individuals. Everyone deserves to enjoy the benefits it brings, and with this investment, we believe we’ve taken a decisive step towards making that vision a reality.”