There’s a nice review of a CD by the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (above, with Phil Woods- he’s getting everywhere) by Dave Gelly in today’s Observer.
Leave aside the fact that the people who edit the Observer now can’t even spell the name of one of their own paper’s music critics, and let’s concentrate on NYJO.
According to the Charity Commission, all the activity of NYJO in a year, which means between four and ten concerts EVERY MONTH, that might add up to around fifty-sixty appearances a year- I’m guessing- plus publishing, recordings like this etc etc….costs just £160,000.
I’m thinking about how one might map the broader economic benefits of that expenditure, like bar profits and tourist revenues when foreigners book into Ronnie’s to hear them, let alone the investment in the future …but let’s keep that figure in mind.
What does £160,000 pay for on the other side of the tracks?
In a year the (classical) National Youth Orchestra does its traditional three residential courses, plus three very short concert tours, which amount to public dates just scraping into double figures in a year. It’s last published annual expenditure was £1,410,000. This money would keep NYJO going on its current expenditure base for nearly NINE YEARS.
(Just for fun, £160,000 would pay for fifteen hours of the annual operating costs of the Royal Opera, or, if you prefer, three and a half months of the salary of its top earner.)
The classical National Youth Orchestra did recently try to throw away the shackles of convention , and to commit an orchestra to the Destino dance project at Sadlers Wells in term time. But it had pulled out, leaving Destino a few weeks to find its own orchestra. There’s still a cached article on Google about the project from the NYO website.
What Bill Ashton does is heroic.
You have to contrast the volume of what it supplies with the quality. It still performs the music based on an era when it was started. Contrast this with, say, the range of music played by Tommy Smith’s orchestra in Scotland. Bill Ashton is excessively dismissive of much of the newer generation around and some of the previous alumni, such as the brothers Crook from Birmingham, feel that their time in NYJO was wasted. (And both these brothers have proved themselves internationally over subsequent years.) There are, fortunately, other options around nowadays. NYJO is a bit anachronistic in its approach.
If it was such a waste of time, why did the Crook brothers spend so many years in the band?