National youth jazz orchestra

NYJO announces year-long EQ Project: Remixing the Gender Balance in Jazz. Content supplied by Debbie Forwood NYJO.

NYJO has announced the launch of the EQ Project, a year-long programme of projects and events designed to remix the gender balance in jazz. EQ will include new commissions and arrangements by female jazz composers, plus the ‘Female Jazz Icons’ concert programme celebrating female contributions to jazz through history, research projects, additional support for young female musicians, and a commitment to achieve a 50/50 gender split of visiting musicians and educators working with the NYJO ensembles.

New works have been commissioned from Yazz Ahmed, Issie Barratt, Nikki Iles and Mercury nominee Laura Jurd, who is also writing a new arrangement of Mary Lou Williams’ 1945 Zodiac Suite.  This element of the project is supported by PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund.

The official launch event for the project is NYJO’s 11 March performance at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley, where the orchestra will be joined by singer and BBC Radio 2 Presenter Clare Teal as guest soloist and co-host alongside Mark Armstrong, and Laura Jurd’s Zodiac Suite arrangement will be premiered.

Events running as part of the programme, including premieres of the new commissions, will continue to be scheduled throughout the year. Those already confirmed can be found in the notes to editors below.

NYJO’s Artistic Director Mark Armstrong says: “we at NYJO are only too aware of the historic gender imbalance in jazz, and of our responsibility to play our part in improving it. The EQ project is about reflecting the change we want to see in education and the industry as well as celebrating the women of jazz, many of whom have been historically undervalued. It’s a chance for NYJO to ask how we can be making our own changes to better support women (and indeed everyone) to engage with jazz at all levels of the organisation. EQ is intended as a catalyst project – by the end of the 2018 there’ll be a greater proportion of works by women in the NYJO repertoire to perform, more female associate educators and a regular programme of female jazz artists working with us in the years to come. We want to create an environment where confident and expressive improvising musicians, who happen to be female, feel welcome and celebrated on an equal footing with all musicians.”

Clare Teal, guest soloist and co-host of the EQ launch event says: “I’m delighted to be involved in NYJO’s EQ Project. There’s a wave of change in the UK jazz industry, and more young female jazz stars are deservedly in the spotlight these days, but it’s only through the institutional leadership of organisations like NYJO that we can translate this into a real depth of female participation throughout the industry.  The history of jazz is rich in talented women like Mary Lou Williams, Melba Liston and Valaida Snow, but sadly these wonderful musicians never enjoyed the same level of success or recognition as many of their male counterparts e.g. Duke Ellington, J.J. Johnson or Louis Armstrong.  The Female Jazz Icons programme is a great vehicle for celebrating these women while promoting female musicians and composers of today – and we hope it is inspiring for the young jazz musicians of the future too!”

About NYJO

The National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) is a registered charity, and the UK’s pre-eminent provider of jazz education.

Its flagship jazz orchestra is a glittering showcase for the UK’s finest young professional jazz musicians, combining a hard-swinging rhythm section and a raft of hugely talented soloists. NYJO has helped launch the careers of many of the country’s most renowned jazz musicians including Guy Barker, Amy Winehouse, Mark Nightingale and Laura Jurd; as well as the leader of the Strictly Come Dancing band Dave Arch, and most of his band members; plus music supervisor for the London Olympics and Paralympics Martin Koch.  Performing around 40 concerts a year both nationally and internationally, recent highlights for the band have included a yearly residency at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, major European tours with the German (BuJazzO) and Dutch (NJJO) youth jazz orchestras, and a televised performance at the BBC Proms. NYJO celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015 and released a critically-acclaimed double-album ‘NYJO FIFTY’.

NYJO’s weekly Saturday Academy offers ensemble, aural and improvisation training for around 100 musicians of varying levels, and provides bursary assistance to those in financial need. The NYJO Academy hosts free monthly jazz jams, open to young musicians from within and outside its membership.

Beyond the Academy, NYJO delivers learning and participation work wherever it tours around the country in partnership with Music Education Hubs, schools and universities, developing progression routes for the next generation of musicians and building new audiences for the art form. We reached 1,300 young people in 2016/17, but this number is set to quadruple this year.

“NYJO has never been conformist, never hewing to one particular line, never known for fawning replications and very deliberately these days a vehicle for new possibilities.”  Peter Vacher, Jazzwise


NYJO: Remixing the Gender Balance in Jazz

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