Working with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra

ABRSM has partnered with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) to help open up jazz to young people across the UK. We share the belief that jazz is a musically rich medium through which creativity and communication can be explored, and that it should be accessible to as many school-aged children as possible.

We're particularly keen to be supporting the innovative NYJO Jazz Messengers, a sextet that champions diversity in music and encourages children and young people to listen to - and learn - jazz through inspirational concerts in schools.

We also support the NYJO Academy Mentor Scheme, which provides training in workshop leadership for emerging jazz musicians so they're equipped to help develop the next generation of young jazz musicians. If you work in a primary school, take a look at NYJO's contribution to our Classical 100 resource.

Jim Gold's experience as an Academy Mentor

The NYJO Academy Mentor Scheme offers hands-on practical experience for emerging jazz musicians to work in an education setting, alongside NYJO's experienced team of musical directors. We caught up with Jim Gold, a current mentor and past holder of the lead alto chair in NYJO, to hear what it's like to be part of the scheme.

Jim Gold National Youth Jazz Orchestra

Why is it important for you to learn about teaching young musicians?

As part of the Royal Academy's LRAM teaching scheme, I co-led several workshops at St. Marylebone Girl's School, culminating in a public performance. It was one of the most rewarding components of the course and I was keen to undertake more training.

Why is it that you've come to NYJO as a mentor to learn these skills?

Firstly, there's no substitute for hands-on experience. There's definitely a place for theory, but the ratio should be heavily skewed towards practice.

Secondly, you benefit from being thrown in the deep end, in the sense that you're given complete responsibility for at least some of the sessions. This is the only way to develop the confidence you need in professional teaching scenarios.

Thirdly, you benefit from an experienced teacher critiquing your approach and suggesting areas of improvement. Gemma Buckenham, the MD of the NYJO Academy Big Band, was able to identify a solution that greatly increased the efficiency of my sessions only a couple of weeks in.

What makes the NYJO Academy Mentor Scheme so special?

The NYJO Mentorship Scheme offers several unique elements, most obviously the great volume of teaching experience on offer. With a partner, we shadow two ensembles for a term each. This allows you to build a rapport with students and pursue a thread for an extended period. Furthermore, through working with two ensembles of contrasting size, ability and style, you develop a diverse repertoire of exercises and approaches.

Did you do any of the ABRSM Jazz exams when you were learning?

While at school, I used the ABRSM Jazz Real Books but didn't sit any of the exams. The pedigree of the consultants who designed the Jazz grades couldn't be more impressive, and I appreciate the focus on practical application of aural skills. I've always found a definite goal to be the most potent catalyst for progress, so I'd certainly use them with students.

Read our interview with NYJO saxophonist Chelsea Carmichael.

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