Improvising jazz in Bolton

Jazz workshops with young musicians

The Leeds College of Music Jazz department descended on Bolton in November to tuck into some teaching and outreach.
In a two-day project organized by lecturer Jamil Sheriff, 16 Leeds College of Music students worked with pupils aged 11–18 from schools in Bolton to help develop their performance and improvisation skills.
This was intended not only to aid the development of the young musicians – but also to help sharpen the teaching skills of the conservatoire’s undergraduate Jazz cohort.

The first day of the project took place at The Wardrobe, in Leeds, where undergraduate students rehearsed repertoire and received workshop guidance. The following day, all 16 students travelled to Canon Slade School in Bolton to work with students from both Canon Slade and Turton School.
Leeds College of Music students led five hours of workshops and performed alongside the school students in two one-hour concerts.
Sheriff explained the motivations and structure behind the project: “Education plays a huge role within all musicians' careers. This project aimed to lay the foundation for any student who is keen to develop skills in leading workshops at secondary education level.
“I lead the project and conducted the Leeds College of Music Big Band, and a free improvised performance with everyone (about 80 students in total). Two of our Musical Direction students also conducted the school big bands. The Leeds College of Music students joined in the school big band performances.”
A key part of the project was improvisation, and encouraging the experimentalism and boldness associated with the practice.
“There were some students who were completely new to improvisation and a few that had tried it out a little,” said Sheriff. “I think by the end of the day, they were all feeling very relaxed and much more confident – and I've got a feeling that a few of them will be going on to experiment in their music a little bit more from now on."

Leeds College of Music students, Emma Gatens and Peter Johnson, said: “Doing the Bolton Schools project was a very rewarding experience. It was fantastic to work with such enthusiastic children at grassroots level in jazz education. We took a lot away from that day.”

Leeds College of Music would like to thank Alex Iles (Head of Arts at Canon Slade) for facilitating the project and John Parkinson (Head of Music at Turton School) for bringing so many of his students along. Also Richard Iles who rehearsed and conducted two of the large scale pieces. 

Photos from the Bolton Jazz improv workshop:



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