|Prince Edward at the NYJO reception|
Friends, supporters, band members, music directors and others associated with NYJO packed out the upstairs bar of Ronnie Scott’s for a reception last night, and had the opportunity to hear more about what the organisation is up to. Executive Chairman Nigel Tully welcomed the Duke of Wessex (Prince Edward). Tully described him as a man who “really loves his jazz and is such a brilliant supporter of our young musicians”. Nigel Tully and Cleveland Watkiss – also present at the reception – were both congratulated on their recent New Year Honours. “2017,” said Nigel Tully, “was a fantastic year for NYJO, and 2018 will be even better.” The organisation has tripled in size. NYJO has no fewer than 80 active educational partnerships. On diversity, he said: “We are brave enough to admit it, we need and want to do better.”
One example of an initiative under way is a sextet called the NYJO Jazz Messengers. In the past year it has played to 5,000 young people in 40 schools. These concerts, Tully said, are intended to make a clear path to get involved for any young musician, and to convey the message: “We like jazz. We are like you. You might like jazz too. Give it a go.” Another initiative is a specific focus on female composers, both in the concerts of the Ronnie’s residency, and in 2018 in general.
There was also a speech by NYJO Artistic Director Mark Armstrong who said: “We believe that what makes jazz so great is that it represents what is best in society – that people from different social and cultural backgrounds and different ideas come together and that the sum is greater than the parts.”
Leader of NYJO Jazz Messengers Chelsea Carmichael also spoke about how much she enjoyed the Messengers’ mission: “taking vibrancy of jazz directly to young people” and “to show the benefits of getting involved in music, and to show young people there is a place for all kinds of people in music”. She talked articulately about how important it is that young people can see thier own potential through role models in front of them. She makes a point of ensuring that she can talk to the young people after the concerts.
In his closing remarks the Prince went out of his way to ensure that appreciation was shown for the supporters and the staff, and to reinforce the sense of pride and achievement in NYJO: “It is down to you. None of this would happen without you.”