NYJO's female focus

NYJO's Mark Armstrong hails "a chance to ask how we can be making our own changes to better support women (and indeed everyone) to engage with jazz"

The National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) has launched the EQ Project, which will include new commissions and arrangements by female jazz composers, the “Female Jazz Icons” concert programme celebrating female contributions to jazz through history, research projects, additional support for young female musicians and a commitment to achieve a 50/50 gender split of visiting musicians and educators working with the NYJO ensembles.

As part of the EQ Project new works have been commissioned from Yazz Ahmed, Issie Barratt, Nikki Iles and Mercury Prize nominee Laura Jurd (pictured right by Trish Keogh Hodgett), who is also writing a new arrangement of Mary Lou Williams’ 1945 Zodiac Suite. This element of the project is supported by PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund. NYJO’s 11 March performance at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley, will be the official launch event for the project. The orchestra will be joined by singer and BBC Radio 2 presenter Clare Teal as guest soloist and co-host alongside NYJO artistic director Mark Armstrong. Laura Jurd’s Zodiac Suite arrangement will be premiered.

Armstrong (pictured left) says: “We at NYJO are only too aware of the historic gender imbalance in jazz, and of our responsibility to play our part in improving it. The EQ Project is about reflecting the change we want to see in education and the industry as well as celebrating the women of jazz... It’s a chance for NYJO to ask how we can be making our own changes to better support women (and indeed everyone) to engage with jazz at all levels of the organisation… We want to create an environment where confident and expressive improvising musicians, who happen to be female, feel welcome and celebrated on an equal footing with all musicians.”

Clare Teal adds: “I’m delighted to be involved in NYJO’s EQ Project. There’s a wave of change in the UK jazz industry, and more young female jazz stars are deservedly in the spotlight these days, but it’s only through the institutional leadership of organisations like NYJO that we can translate this into a real depth of female participation throughout the industry.”

Events running as part of the programme, including premieres of the new commissions, will appear throughout the year. Five of these events - featuring Emilia Mårtensson, Yazz Ahmed and Clare Teal - have already been scheduled. For more information on these events, please go to the NYJO webpage.

Bruce Lindsay

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