Nigel Slee, Creative Director at Jazz North, reports from Huddersfield on the seventh Jazz North Education Conference (declaration of interest: Nigel organised it) :
The seventh Jazz North Education Conference took place in the Sir Patrick Stewart drama theatre at the University of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire on Wednesday 12 June. The theme and provocation of this year’s one-day conference was “How can the jazz sector help to tackle the music education crisis?”. The conference explored issues raised in a hard-hitting report ‘State of the Nation’ published in January 2019 by The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education in collaboration with the University of Sussex and the Incorporated Society of Musicians which demonstrated the scale of the crisis facing music education in England.
The report’s recommendations revealed the breadth of the problem and also how easily some of the most pressing issues could be addressed with little or no financial cost. Perhaps an opportunity here for the jazz sector to make an impact with a wealth of experience of fun and effective ways to engage young children in music making?
Delegates, some of whom has travelled from across the UK to Yorkshire, were presented with insights and practical from leading practitioners and professionals such as Jimmy Rotheram (Feversham Primary), MOBO award winner and broadcaster YolanDa Brown, improvising artist Chris Sharkey, community musician Matt Robinson (More Music), Fatine Boumaaz (Ronnie Scotts’ Charitable Foundation) and Enrico Bertelli (Conductive Music).
The day started with a panel discussing the main provocation and it was immediately clear that while there may be a music education crisis, there is some amazing work going across the UK being led by passionate and dedicated educators and artists. There appear to be patchy levels of engagement from the music services and that usually relies on one ‘jazz’ advocate. Even if there is one, there can be problems related to the perception of ‘jazz’. In primary music the word ‘jazz’ can be a barrier and a feeling that this is inferior to conventional classical music teaching. Inside schools, music teachers and even some music leaders, have a lack of confidence and creative skills. Today’s jazz conservatoire graduates have these skills in spades so one obvious solution would be to take advantage of that potential workforce? Another suggestion was for the training of young music leaders, CPD for music teachers and workshops for PGCE students led and developed by jazz musicians.
The day continued with inspiring presentations by Jimmy Rotheram, Feversham School – using music to transform a failing Bradford primary school into an outstanding one; Chris Sharkey – a practical demonstration in introducing improvising to large groups regardless of whether they play an instrument; Yolanda Brown – her path to a professional career and work with BBC CBeebies ‘YolanDa’s Band Jam’; Helena Summerfield – talking about Jazz North’s Jazz Camp for Girls initiative to encourage girls to play jazz.
One of our delegates commented “This was a long overdue day for the jazz education community in the UK, an important step in beginning to focus attention on what is taught, how and why”.
Jazz North will be sharing a summary report from the day with a highlighting challenges and solutions and we will be continuing the dialogue with jazz sector partners and funders.
Conductive Music bring together Music, the Sciences and Creativity with practical hands-on DIY inventions for school children. Enrico says “We love to design, build, push our inventions to the limit until they break, then take them apart, fix them, and learn everything about them. The joy of imagining and then bringing your own instrument to life is infectious and we want to share it. We want to inspire inventors who know what to do when stuff goes wrong. We want to show them how to embrace failure, to boost resilience and to grow, independently, through trial and error”.
Ronnie Scotts’ Charitable Foundation
A true believer in free music education for all, Fatine Boumaaz has been running Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation, the world famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club very own charity, since its creation in 2015. Fatine runs all aspects of the organisation from management to fundraising, communications to planning, strategizing to problem-solving, and often, whatever else comes her way. Every year she helps raise musical instruments and funds to sponsor free musical education projects for young aspiring musicians across the UK and the world. Originally from France, she initially graduated in International business and speaks several languages. On her free time, Fatine loves singing, especially jazz, and have been part of several musical projects soundcloud.com/fatinjazz.
YolanDa is an award-winning saxophonist, educator and broadcaster. She was the first musician to win a MOBO Award for “Best Jazz” in two consecutive years and her BBC CBeebies “YolanDa’s Band Jam” launched in January 2019. In 2017, YolanDa was named as celebrity ambassador for the Greater London Assembly and ABRSM “Learn Music London” Campaign. She is a celebrity ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, Children and the Arts, Plan UK, World Child Cancer, as well as the Mayor’s Music Fund. In 2018, she was appointed Chair of the biggest music education charity in the UK, Youth Music.
Matt is a community musician and jazz artist with a strong commitment to community music projects. Read Matt’s blog post on the Youth Music forum talking about More Music’s new initiative pro-actively tackling these issues in the NW. Matt will be leading the opening panel discussion at the start of the day.
Music teacher Jimmy Rotheram started at Feversham Primary, Bradford, four years ago, just as the school was coming out of special measures. The new head teacher, Naveed Idrees, was convinced that a radical programme of between two and six hours of music would help reverse the school’s fortunes. “The programme had a profound effect on our results” Jimmy says. Feversham is now in the top two percent of schools in the country for pupil progress and Jimmy is now in demand to share his experience worldwide.
“I’m interested in challenging expectations of what music education can and should be. We are constantly being told that our young people need to be ‘creative’ and ‘innovative’ but music education, a field that should be an example to other disciplines, is often lacking in these two vital areas. My current focus is on expanding participation in my projects to include people with no previous experience in performing. I want to show that inclusivity and high musical quality are not mutually exclusive and that creativity requires no superpowers. The only prerequisites are an open mind and the courage to join in”.
Helena is project leader for Jazz North’s Jazz Camp for Girls initiative that was launched in February 2019 with partners who met at last year’s Jazz North education conference. Helena is also a woodwind teacher with Trafford Music Service and she’s active on the Manchester music scene playing and composing for bands including the saxophone quartet HSQ.