• Adding to the Jazz pathway

On March 17th, educators and music practitioners from across the North attended Jazz North’s third annual Jazz Education conference and networking day at Leeds College of Music (LCoM).

With the theme of Jazz & Improvisation for Children and Young People, the event invited a number of guest speakers to share their experiences and expertise on jazz education from Key Stage 1 to adult learner programmes.

Gerry Godley

Gerry Godley

After an introduction by Nigel Slee of Jazz North, Gerry Godley, Principal and Managing Director of LCoM, welcomed everybody to LCoM and gave a personal overview on the subject of improvisation and young musicians drawing upon his experiences of working with improvising musicians downstream of the conservatoire system.

Jazz Education Pathway

With conference participants representing all stages along the jazz education pathway, a large sheet of paper had been fixed to the wall and all were encouraged to add their own particular organisation to the chart. This chart is the first step in a Jazz North project to map current education activity across the North. By the end of the day the sheet of paper was filled with information.


Sonia Mellor
Sonia Mellor & Colette Dutot Building resources for First Access teaching

Sheffield Music Hub’s Colette Dutot and Rotherham’s Sonia Mellor presented their work on including improvisation and jazz into First Access programmes aimed at young children from 5 upwards. Following last year’s conference, Colette and Sonia along with Helena Summerfield got together to share ideas and class room resources. In their presentation they outlined how they have worked together since and talked about some of the methods used to introduce improvisation in the class room.


Dr Kathy Dyson / Jeremy Platt Working with Youth Jazz Groups

Kathy Dyson

Kathy Dyson

Jeremy Platt

Jeremy Platt

Dr Kathy Dyson and Jeremy Platt discussed their work with youth jazz groups, both as part of a school music education and out of the school environment. Both speakers emphasised the need to empower young people through music and that improvised music creates an ideal platform in which to do this. Opting to forego the tradition role of MD, Jeremy invites students to take charge of their performances with his school jazz orchestra and develop a sense of ownership within the group. Discussing a problem common to all music teachers in schools, Jeremy explained the need to tailor teaching to the group of students in front of him. For example, rather than be restricted by regular big band formats he arranging tunes for specific line-ups and the instrumentation available. He also talked about the challenges and flexibility needed to adapt to the ever-changing group of students within a school ensemble.

Kathy Dyson’s teaching philosophy also centered on the idea of empowerment and on the importance of treating jazz as a craft. Through immersion and slow learning, music tuition shows young musicians that music can be life affirming and enhancing. Drawing on her experience of jazz courses taught outside of school, Kathy cited many of the same issues as Jeremy, including the difficulty of being faced with a wide variety of ages and abilities. A solution? To do things in small enough chunks that no-one can fail to extrapolate to the wider picture.

‘Teaching jazz should focus on the practical – scaffolded by theory’ – Kathy Dyson

Kathy recommended Paolo Friere for literature on empowerment through education and the idea of dialogue within learning.


Jamil Sheriff interviews LCoM student Dan Brunskill

Jamil Sheriff interviews LCoM student Dan Brunskill

Jamil Sheriff / Dan Brunskill How to get to conservatoire to study jazz (case study)

Dan Brunskill

Dan Brunskill

A benefit to holding a jazz education conference in a conservatoire is being surrounded by products of the system itself and delegates were treated to some live music by current BA Hons Jazz students led by second year alto saxophonist Dan Brunskill. Course leader Jamil Sheriff described the differing levels of experience he sees at auditions for jazz degrees, split into three broad categories –

  • those with wide access to high quality jazz education
  • those who had attended some summer schools and/or been part of a school jazz group
  • those with no access to jazz education

Jamil then invited Dan to discuss his own journey in jazz education – starting with classroom music and progressing to one-to-one lessons, engaging with regional courses and being a part of youth jazz group Jambone at The Sage, Gateshead. With this first-hand account, delegates could see the results of exposure to jazz from a young age and continued provision through the school system.


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Pete Churchill

Pete Churchill

Pete Churchill

Renowned educator Pete Churchill led a session which focused on integrating jazz and improvisation into work with large groups of musicians of all abilities.

Having being trained in the use of Kodaly, Pete recognised its’ use in developing aural skills in large groups. He gave us a practical demonstration and after introducing some key interval hand signs had everyone singing along. Pete suggested that this is very useful as a vocal warm-up and also for its inclusion of visual aids to learn. Kodaly can be used to teach tunes, build harmony parts and train musicians to recognise and pitch intervals. Once children have learnt the hand signs they can actually direct and lead classmates as they improvise their own melodies.

‘There is a misconception that you should give a child an instrument then put music into it. No, the instrument is how to get the music out; it goes in through singing and movement.’ – Pete Churchill

Focusing on intervals and teaching by ear also removes the potential barriers faced by multiple transposing instruments within an ensemble. Like many of the other speakers, Pete also discussed the non-musical benefits of including jazz and improvised music in music education, specifically as a way to develop empathy and communication skills.


Issie Barratt

Issie Barratt

Issie Barratt Nuturing aspiring female jazz leaders

Director of National Youth Jazz Collective and respected jazz composer Issie Barratt conclude the session with a discussion on young women in jazz. Aware of an imbalance in the numbers of girls auditioning and participating in the NYJC, Issie worked on a report which explores the reasons why this might be and examining the ways in which positive female role leaders in jazz could be supported. Her Creative Leadership Ensemble worked with a number of young women to develop their skills as jazz educators and role models. The report (which can be read HERE) details the CLE project as well as the findings from numerous interviews and data collection. Issie invited all delegates to share their own experiences and start a dialogue in which everyone could participate and work together to support women in jazz.


Reports from previous years

Read about previous conferences:
March 2014 www.jazznorth.org/../education-networking/
March 2013 www.jazznorth.org/jazz-north-session-at-lijec

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