Royal Academy of Music ‘Junior Jazz at 20’ Concert (30 Sep 2023)

This Saturday night 30 September at the Royal Academy of Music‘s Susie Sainsbury Theatre, there will be a concert by several alumni/ae to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Academy’s Junior Jazz Department. The impact of this programme for 14-18 year olds, run on Saturdays, is a far bigger than it is given credit for; the Saturday school on Marylebone Road is a FAR more important part of the ecology of jazz education in the UK than is generally acknowledged.

Saturday will also see the official launch of a bursary fund to ensure that opportunities to broaden access to the programme can be maximised. Preview feature by Sebastian Scotney.

Gareth Lockrane running a group including Jacob Collier at the department’s 10th anniversary concert at Kings Place in 2014
(Link to report below) Photo courtesy of Gareth Lockrane


It is twenty years this September since Gerard Presencer invited Nick Smart to start up a Saturday jazz school for 14-18 year olds at the Royal Academy of Music. It was Nick Smart’s first involvement with the Academy. The department has been run since 2011 by Gareth Lockrane (with Matt Anderson as an additional combo tutor, taking over this role in 2018, previously held by Simon Colam). Gareth Lockrane took it over shortly after Nick Smart (who is now a full Professor of London University) started in the role of Jazz Programmes Director, running of the main undergraduate and graduate programmes.

The list of alumnae/i who have to some extent found their feet through being part of the Saturday venture is truly astonishing and includes…

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* Kit Downes (pianist/ organist four albums as leader on ECM)

* Alexandra Ridout (trumpet/ BBC Young Jazz Musician winner

* Jacob Collier (11 GRAMMY nominations and five wins)

* Nubya Garcia (saxophone/ festival headliner/Concord Records),

* three-fifths of Mercury winners Ezra collective: (Femi Koleoso, Joe Armon-Jones, Ife Ogunjobi)

* Tom Walsh (trumpet)

* Rosie Turton (trombone)

…plus other much in-demand musicians such as Sean Payne, Zoe Pascal, Tom Walsh, Freddie Gavita, Tom Barford, and many others.


Kit Downes says: “RAM junior jazz was exactly what I needed at that time – it allowed me to meet like minded musicians, all at the same point in their development as me, and to play through lots of different types of jazz with expert guidance.”

and Jacob Collier comments: “Every aspect, era and style of jazz music is explored with enthusiasm by the teachers and guests within the course. Without the tools this wonderful department gave me, I have no doubt that my life as a professional musician would not be the same, and I consider my three years in the programme some of the most formative and fun I ever had, musically.”

In the early days, Kenny Wheeler who was the first Patron of the course, would attend it, as does the current Patron, Dave Holland. Their presence is the tip of the iceberg. Gareth Lockrane writes:

We have hosted workshops and masterclasses with US jazz stars Chris Cheek, Dick Oatts, Jerry Bergonzi, Dave Liebman, Jean Toussaint and Ingrid Jensen as well as with our patron, the legendary bassist Dave Holland; also we have hosted jazz course concerts featuring celebrated British jazz icons such as Jim Mullen, Julian Arguelles, Mike Walker, Julian Siegel, Alex Garnett, Henry Lowther, Tim Garland and Stan Sulzmann. Students learn first hand with the masters of the music, and are encouraged to strengthen their roots as musicians and to develop their individual voice as players and composers.”

Nick Smart running a group including Rosie Turton and Nubya Garcia
at the department’s 10th anniversary concert at Kings Place in 2014 . Photo courtesy of Nick Smart


With all this success and bustle, there is no evidence of sticking to a fixed formula. And in particular there is an objective to broaden participation, and cancel out the problem of a staid image. As Nick Smart writes

“We’re doing what we can to try and ensure students from all backgrounds can be part of this community. Alongside teaching at Junior Jazz, Matt Anderson also puts together regular “Jazz Club” outreach projects (recently led by Cassie Kinoshi, Rachael Cohen, Liselotte Ostblom and Daisy George amongst others) to widen visibility and access to the course, and this twentieth anniversary concert is to raise funds for exactly that purpose, to create spaces on the course for those who need it.”


The concert starts at 7pm, and will involve short sets from three different bands. And with a licence extension till 11pm, the evening will progressively evolve into a jam session…

The starting set will have music by the course’s two patrons, Kenny Wheeler (“Mark Time”) and Dave Holland (the aptly named “Pass it On”) , performed by earlier cohorts of Saturday students this will be followed by sets by two later cohorts, and the evening will build to a massed performance of “Nants Inkululeko” by Bheki Mseleku.

The final list of performers is not set in stone … but may include

Freddie Gavita, Tom Walsh (trumpets) , Tommy Andrews, Josh Jaswon (sax), Alex Paxton (trombone), Will Barry (piano), Daisy George (bass) , Liz Exell (drums)… Ife Ogunjobi Harrison Cole (trumpets), Matt Sulzmann, Tom Smith, Asha Parkinson (saxes), Oliver Mason, Charlie Heywood Rosie Frayter-Taylor (guitars), Jonny Wickham (bass), Dave Hamblett (drums), Luke Vice-Coles (tpt), Tom Barford, Maddy Combs, Tom Ridout (saxes) , Dan Higham (trombone), Ella Hohnen Ford (voice), Ralph Wyld (vibes), Harry Baker (piano) , Freddie Jensen (bass), Josh Blackmore (drums).

Admission is just £5 !! Booking link below

LJN Report and band listings from the 10th Anniversary concert in 2014

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