• photo of teachers trying clapping exercise
  • musician richard ormrod at the piano
  • photo of recorder players
  • photo of Beci Jamieson and Mark Ellis

Pathways into Jazz and improvisation for children and young people 2014

Jazz North hosted a second education seminar on March 11th at Leeds International Jazz Education Conference. Entitled “Pathways into Jazz and improvisation for children and young people” the session brought together educators and musicians from across the North to meet and discuss the wide range of jazz education projects being carried out across the UK.

photo of richard ormrod

Richard Ormrod

Richard Ormrod – Community jazz model
Saxophonist and educator Richard Ormrod opened the afternoon, speaking about his inclusive, community-oriented approach to music education. Influenced by his involvement with Steve Berry’s Jam Factory (which he subsequently took over in 2008), much of Richard’s work in education is open to all and seeks to bring musicians and communities together regardless of instrumentation, age or ability. DalesJam and RamJam (the adult and childrens projects respectively) play music from across the world, drawing on music from many cultures. Vital to the success of this inclusive approach is the fact that Richard arranges all the music played to suit the instrumentation and ability of the groups, and that he understands the different ways in which musicians learn (some prefer to read, others to learn by ear for example). He ended his talk by citing the importance of making music education fun and empowering for young people; when RamJam performs, the focus is on the children enjoying making music which subsequently rubs off on the audiences.

photo of colette dutot

Colette Dutot

Colette Dutot – Music hubs in jazz education
Following Richard was Colette Dutot, representing Sheffield Music Service and the work of Music Hubs in jazz education. Colette was featured as a speaker at last years’ LIJEC education seminar and returned this year to provide an update on the successes of Sheffield’s jazz education schemes as well as to share her experiences as an active part of a Music Hub. Continuing the theme of inclusivity, Sheffield Music Hub’s mission statement references the need to provide high quality music education to all children, regardless of background. Colette has written and implemented a jazz programme as part of her work and has placed improvisation at the centre. After findings showed that only 0.5% of the music education accessed by children in Sheffield is jazz and improvising, Sheffield are working with regional and national partners to build programmes which develop the improvisational skills of children; both with a view to encourage high levels of musicianship but also to develop social skills, attentiveness and self-esteem in young people. One example of this is their Latin Jazz Summer Course, which worked with over 100 and culminated in a huge performance at City Hall. Watch the children perform Cubantastic at City Hall.

photo of euan stevenson

Euan Stevenson

Euan Stevenson – Improvising and the youth jazz orchestra
One of the largest provisions for young people to become involved in jazz are the wealth of youth jazz orchestras across the country. Jazz North invited Euan Stevenson, a pianist and educator from Scotland, to discuss the role of youth jazz orchestras in forming professional jazz musicians and to provide an outlook from outside of England. Like Richard Ormrod, Euan has been involved in jazz education both as a student and as a teacher and this dual role equips him with a valuable insight and sense of empathy. Euan shared stories of his own time as a student, highlighting the challenges faced by young rhythm section players in jazz orchestras who are required to have strong reading skills and an understanding of convention and style quickly and for whom focused attention and support from jazz educators is vital. The friendships and musical connections that are borne out of playing together in a youth jazz orchestra are important in the professional world, too and Euan still works with some of the musicians he met as a young musician in orchestras and on summer schools. He concluded by explaining that youth jazz orchestras are an important part of jazz education but are only part of the picture; that many young musicians experience a wealth of different jazz education settings which all feed into their work as professionals.

photo of mark ellis

Mark Ellis

Mark Ellis – Ear We Go project

Mark Ellis’ Ear We Go project, run by DARTS and Doncaster Music Service in partnership with Doncaster Youth Jazz Association, focused on widening the exposure to jazz education for children under 10, using ear-training without written notation to teach children to play the recorder. Accompanied by Beci Jamieson (who worked with Mark during the project and now works for NYJO), Mark described the implementation of the project which targeted schools that did not currently offer instrumental lessons in order to pilot the scheme and subsequently ran at two schools. Having studied linguistics and child acquisition of language before becoming a professional jazz musician, Mark wanted the project to address music education in the same way as children learn language;the assimilation of small blocks of information through call and response and repetition. Calling on his background in linguistics but also on his own experiences as a young musician, Ear We Go approached learning the recorder without notation. Handing out recorders to the attendees of the seminar, Mark ran through some exercises which displayed the methodology of Ear We Go; call and response of simple phrases using two or three notes which were played with eyes closed.
Although the scheme worked with very young children of varying backgrounds, exercises such as this one acted as a leveller and Mark was surprised by the range of nuances the children were able to mimic when repeating his phrases. One of the two schools which ran the pilot have kept the scheme on and will continue to develop it for another year.

photo of jilly jarman

Jilly Jarman

Jilly Jarman – Jazz outreach in a rural area
Concluding the session was a talk by Jilly Jarman on her work with BlueJam, an arts organisation in Cumbria. Having moved to Cumbria in 2000 from London, Jilly began working with secondary schools and BlueJam was formed after she made the decision to bring these different school groups together. The organisation has grown and Jilly now works alongside Geoff Bartholomew and Katie Ind to deliver a variety of projects including Jazz Talk (a series of jazz workshops), an improv choir and a young songwriters group. Having recognised that their strength is jazz, they underpin all the work they do with the same principles – improvisation, composition and group work. The results vary in style and direction, but it is those core values that drive BlueJam. Operating over a wide geographical area, their work seeks to bring people together across community divides and Jilly believes that this succeeds because their focus on original material and creativity in group settings gives people a feeling of ownership over their music, and an openness to share and work together. Working in a rural setting and nurturing a strong sense of community, many young people involved in BlueJam often maintain their connection long-term, coming back to work as mentors and music leaders. This is testament to the empowering effect of improvisational and creative focus in music education and its ability to create confident, progressive musicians.