I'm delighted to announce the nine ensembles shortlisted to take part in the Yamaha Jazz Experience competition finals, hosted by Cheltenham Jazz Festival on 1 May 2010. Jazz FM broadcaster Helen Mayhew joined leading jazz educator Richard Michael and me, Yamaha's education liaison manager, Bill C Martin, to make the selection at Yamaha UK headquarters in early March.
The finalists for each category (ages as on 1 September 2009):
11 & under 15: Blue Lizard (Manchester Music Service); Pimlico Junior Jazz (Pimlico Academy); Blue Shift (Guildhall School of Music & Drama Junior Department)
11 & under 17: St Ignatius Jazz (St Ignatius College, Enfield); Dumfries Youth Jazz Group (Dumfries Youth Jazz); Time Team (Northampton Music & Performing Arts Service)
11 & under 19: Tomorrow's Warriors Biggish Band (Tomorrow's Warriors, London); Friendly Bacteria (GSMD Junior Department, London); Chetham's Jazz Sextet (Chetham's School of Music, Manchester)
Jazz ensembles from all over the UK - from Shetland in the north of Scotland, down to Devon on England's south-west peninsula - entered ensembles for the competition, with a chance to win gigs at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Ronnie Scott's, The 606 Club and The Bull's Head Jazz Club in south-west London on 1 May 2010, along with a total of £9,000 worth of Yamaha prizes for their school, college or community centres.
To enter, participants had to set up a jazz ensemble comprising piano (or keyboard/vibes), bass, drums and optionally up to five additional performers. They had to prepare a blues and either a jazz standard or a piece of their own choosing, with impro at its heart, video their best performance of them and send them to Yamaha them to Yamaha.
Then in early March 2010 two of the distinguished Yamaha Jazz Experience judges, Helen Mayhew (jazz broadcaster, Jazz FM) and Richard Michael (2009 Parliamentary Jazz 'Jazz Educator' award winner and Yamaha Jazz Experience workshop leader), joined Yamaha's Bill C Martin for the difficult job of choosing only nine ensembles to take part in the competition finals in Cheltenham.
Helen, Richard and I had a fantastic time watching and listening to the wonderful video entries, from every conceivable kind of educational and music institution and from all over the UK. I was particularly pleased to hear entries from some of those teachers new to jazz who took part in our Jazz Experience workshops in 2009, and who have clearly moved their own skills on tremendously. We were stunned by the overall quality of musicianship in the entries, which made it very difficult to choose only nine finalists! We want to thank all the teachers and music leaders who have clearly put in so much work with their ensembles and, even if they haven't got through to the finals on this occasion, they may be consoled to know that Helen has noted names and will be on the lookout for emerging new jazz stars, no doubt to feature on her Jazz FM programme, 'The Yamaha Jazz Jam', in the future!"
On 1 May the nine finalists will perform before a distinguished judging panel of: Julian Joseph (internationally acclaimed jazz pianist and Jazz Experience workshop leader), Andrea Vicari (jazz professor at Trinity College of Music, professional jazz musician with Andrea Vicari Trio, director of Dordogne Jazz Summer School and Jazz Experience workshop leader), Liane Carroll (inspirational jazz singer, winner of 2008 Parliamentary Jazz 'Musician of the Year' award winner), Helen Mayhew (jazz broadcaster, Jazz FM), Peter Ind (Jazz Experience patron and legendary jazz double bass player) and inspirational jazz educator Richard Michael.
The judges will announce the winners at the event.
We would like to thank the Yamaha Jazz Experience venue partners, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Ronnie Scott's, the 606 Club and the Bull's Head Jazz Club in London. We wish all the finalists the greatest success.
I had a wonderful day yesterday with Jazz Experience's Richard Michael and Jazz FM broadcaster, Helen Mayhew. (A big thank-you to you both.) Our task for the day was to shortlist the entries down to nine ensembles - three under-15s, three under-17s and three under-19s - who will then go through to the Jazz Experience finals, kindly hosted by Cheltenham Jazz Festival, on 1 May 2010.
The whole point of Jazz Experience was:
The competition was open to young people under-19 on 1 September 2009 from any institution or organisation within the UK. We were staggered by the very high quality of entries for the competition, which came from schools, music services, community organisations, regional youth jazz groups, conservatoire junior departments and venues. We had entries from as far north as the Shetlands to the deep south-west of England. Many of the performances were approaching a professional standard, which has been very exciting (and which Helen Mayhew has noted with particular interest, for possible future Jazz FM programmes!).
The preliminary judging panel has now made its selection of the nine finalist ensembles, who must now confirm their availability to attend the finalists' event in May, before we can announce them in mid-March. We are delighted that we have such a wonderful geographic spread, as well as ensembles from all kinds of institutions.
During the judging, we were looking for evidence of musicality, good internal and external communication and creativity. Those ensembles which exhibited all these qualities strongly are the ones we've chosen for the finals. However we were struck by some highly accomplished and talented performances by individual musicians or maybe the rhythm section in some of the ensembles. These are highly talented musicians and we hope they take this further, even if, on this occasion, their ensembles haven't made it to the finals.
We will be contacting all the ensembles and will provide feedback where appropriate. You are all stars! I hope to visit some of the ensembles which were of very high quality but who were pipped at the post on the day - which is particularly true in the under-19 category. I want to encourage and support these ensembles and their musicians to continue their studies and will be able to share our feedback with them in due course, which I hope they'll find helpful.
The UK has a much-deserved world-class reputation for music education and our conservatoires offering full-time jazz degree courses (which Yamaha supports through its parliamentary jazz scholarships) help nurture some of the UK's most gifted and talented young jazz musicians. We're delighted that we've had outstanding entries from several of the conservatoire junior departments. But in our finals, these sit alongside equally strong entries from ordinary schools, specialist schools, music services and community music organisations too.
Everyone who has taken part in our competition will have won: they have worked hard to gain new experiences, new learning, maybe new friends and new confidence as performers. We're very proud of all of them - whether they are new to jazz and improvising or more seasoned performers. My experience is that music - and in particular improvising - provides us with a lifelong journey, which all those who sing, play or compose are on. We may be at the beginning of the journey or much further along the road. The joyous thing is that none of us ever gets to the final destination. So there's no end to what we can learn from this, no matter how long we've been on the journey.
But all of us who travel the road together will improve as musicians and grow as human beings. This is a powerful testament to the fact that music education in the UK is very strong and highly effective. It just works! I would like to thank all the teachers and music leaders whose passion, inspiration and plain hard work demonstrate this so clearly and continue to enrich the lives of their young people.
Bill C Martin
Education liaison manager, Yamaha Music UK
I'm delighted to announce today that, in addition to the prizes for the three winners of the Yamaha Jazz Experience ensemble competition of prestigious London gigs at Ronnie Scott's, the 606 Club and the Bull's Head jazz club in Barnes, we will also provide a prize fund of £9,000 worth of Yamaha gear.
We're now receiving lots of video entries for the ensemble competition, from the UK's secondary schools, youth jazz orchestras, colleges, junior conservatoire departments, music services, various music organisations and venues. I've extended the deadline from 29 January to 12 February, since a number of entrants have had a delayed start to the term because of the arctic snow conditions which, as every year, took us by surprise!
So it's not too late to enter if you haven't already done so. Your ensemble's musicians must be aged between 11 and under-19 and must perform a blues and one other piece of your/their choosing which features jazz-style improvising. You must video it and send it to us with the completed application form. Competition rules and application forms are available here.
So what happens next? Well, on 1 March I have the privilege of working with two past winners of the Parliamentary Jazz Awards - presenter of Jazz FM's 'Yamaha Jazz Jam' Helen Mayhew and jazz-educator Richard Michael, who will shortlist the entries down to nine finalists. These nine ensembles will then perform at our finalists' event on Saturday 1 May at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, when our judging panel of world-class British jazz musicians and educators - Julian Joseph, Peter Ind, Andrea Vicari, Liane Carroll and Richard Michael - will choose three winners, who will be announced at the end of the concert and will be awarded their prizes.
Yamaha has a long history of supporting the UK's most gifted and talented young musicians, as they prepare to leave full-time music education and take their first steps into music careers. Our scholarship programmes began with classical and we've added rock and now jazz to this. But improvising remains a difficult-to-teach subject and I wanted to bring the power of some of the amazing artists and educators Yamaha works with to help improve access into jazz for those still at school. That's why we began the Jazz Experience project last March with a nationwide teacher improvising workshop tour, to help teachers who were interested but needed some help and guidance to improve their own skills and understanding.
A testament to the success of this phase of the project is that we now have a significant number of entries for the competition phase already in, from some of the teachers who came to our workshops last year. I'm thrilled by this as this will provide a legacy for many years to come. I'm very excited by the tremendous response we've had to the competition and wish everyone the best of luck.
As the closing date (29 January 2010) for the Yamaha Jazz Experience ensemble competition for 11-18s is less than 2 months away as I write we thought we'd test the water with a prize draw for anyone confirming their intention to submit one (or more ensembles). We're delighted to announce that Helena Summerfield, of Manchester Music Service, has won a Yamaha Pocketrak recorder, which will help her record the progress of her ensemble's work towards the competition.
So far we've had around 30 ensembles register, with many more already working hard on their two pieces and getting ready to video and send their efforts to our judges for the shortlisting process which will take place towards the end of February.
We've had entries from state schools, independent schools, local youth groups, venues, arts centres and music services, covering the entire country from Shetland to London and the south-west of England! We already know that teachers and music leaders across the country are coaching their ensembles on their two pieces and I have to say I can't wait to hear and see the videos!
If you work with 11-18s and you aren't already taking part, you should do. Besides the immense musical rewards of working with improvising in an ensemble, the developmental learning that takes place for young people who engage in improvising is enormous. For more details go to the Jazz Experience page on this site or you can find the competition entry information on the Yamaha Education Info website.
Other beneficiaries of Yamaha's support for jazz education are our Yamaha Parliamentary Jazz Scholars, who launched their CD at the 606 Club this week. The CD is the covermount on the December issue of Jazzwise magazine, if you're like to hear their incredible results. It's exactly the kind of thing which will most likely inspire younger musicians, like those taking part in our competition. Pictured here: one of the six scholarship winners, guitarist Alex Munk.
Award-winning jazz singer, Liane Carroll, who has been wowing audiences at clubs and festivals both inside and outside the UK for many years, has just confirmed that she will join the judging team for the Yamaha Jazz Experience competition, which culminates in a finalists' event at Cheltenham Jazz Festival on 1 May 2010.
Liane joins Jazz Experience workshop leaders, Julian Joseph, Andrea Vicari, Richard Michael and Peter Ind, which means that the 11-18s in participating ensembles will get the benefit of a superb jazz panel to provide them with valuable feedback on their performances and award the three winning ensembles valuable Yamaha prizes as well as gigs at London's Ronnie Scott's, The 606 Club and The Bull's Head jazz club in Barnes, South West London.
Competition details on the Jazz Experience page.
Following the success of the acclaimed Yamaha Jazz Experience teacher improvising workshops in March and April 2009, we are excited to announce the launch of the second phase of Jazz Experience: a national UK-wide jazz ensemble improvising competition for musicians aged 11-18.
Yamaha prizes and gigs at Ronnie Scott's and the 606 jazz clubs will be awarded for the 3 winning ensembles at the finalists' event at Cheltenham Jazz Festival on 1 May 2010. Judges will include Liane Carroll, Peter Ind, Julian Joseph, Helen Mayhew, Richard Michael and Andrea Vicari.
Each ensemble should prepare a blues and a piece of their own choosing, featuring real improvising. The judges are looking for good musicianship, creativity, communication and rapport. So why not have a go? If you are in the 11-18 age group, based in the UK, your school, college or other organisation can enter any jazz ensembles that it coaches. You can read the Jazz Experience competition 2009-2010 details for yourself and send the link to your teacher, music leader or the person who coaches your ensemble.
If you are a music leader, teacher or someone who coaches or who is about to start a jazz ensemble, this competition is made for you! Entries must come from you, as the person who coaches the ensemble, and you may be from a school, college, arts or community centre, music club, music service, local or regional youth jazz orchestra, etc. Read all about the Jazz Experience competition 2009-2010 details and get working with your ensemble. We look forward to seeing and hearing you play!
I spent a wonderful day yesterday at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD) for the preliminary judging round of the Yamaha Music Foundation of Europe competition. Each year the YMFE competition provides a performance platform and scholarships worth £2000 each for three 18-25s studying music full-time in the UK. The current round focuses on the UK's finest young brass and woodwind players and ten of them will receive a finalists' recital at Birmingham Conservatoire on 5th February 2009.
The event has been expertly co-ordinated for some years by Ian Frankland, who is in charge of Yamaha's brass and woodwind marketing and is a fine horn player himself. For yesterday's shortlisting session the judging team consisted of two of the UK's most respected brass and woodwind performers and educators, John Reynolds and Chris Mowatt. Clarinettist, John Reynolds, is currently Head of Woodwind at RWCM, has played for all of the BBC Orchestras and was Principal Clarinet in Kent Opera. John has held teaching positions at the Guildhall School of Music and at Chetham's School of Music in Manchester. He was Director of Woodwind Studies at the Royal Northern College of Music prior to his appointment at RWCMD. He is a senior moderator, trainer, examiner, and consultant for the Associated Board. Trombonist, Chris Mowatt, has had a sparkling career that has seen him as Head of Brass at the RWCMD and Principal Trombone of the Halle, Royal Philharmonic and BBC Symphony Orchestras. Chris was also a member of the Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble and later London Brass. I was the third judge and would have the casting vote in case of any major disputes. Happily, there were none!
Our task was to select just 10 players who would go through to the final event. We heard some stunning performances from every type of brass and woodwind instrument. On one or two occasions we did struggle to hear the detail of a performance, because insufficient care had been taken with the recording process or because a candidate had accepted a performance in which the soloist and accompanist weren't quite in tune with each other. In two cases the recording was so unclear that we were just unable to hear enough to include the performer in the shortlist. But the remainder of the submissions gave us some wonderful listening moments. As we listened we each produced independent selections and by the end of the day we discovered that we'd agreed on 6 of the ten finalists. After some negotiation and debate the remaining 4 were soon confirmed.
So our final event will now consist of 3 clarinets, 2 flutes, 2 trumpets, 2 saxes and 1 bass trombone! Details of the 10 final performers will be announced in due course, 3 of whom will receive awards of £2000 each towards their professional development and launching their careers.
We'd like to extend out sincere thanks to RWCMD and our wonderful judges, John Reynolds and Chris Mowatt, for their help and support in this preliminary round. Members of the public will be able to attend the final day at the Birmingham Conservatoire on 5th February 09. We will announce ticket details soon.