MYJO

Welcome to the Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra, home of some of the finest young jazz musicians in the country.

Don’t let the word Youth fool you though – the senior band is an outstanding, award-winning outfit capable of providing entertainment for all occasions.

From workshops to formal concerts to corporate entertainment, this flexible and exciting ensemble not only provides education and opportunities to some of the finest up-and-coming jazz musicians in the country but can also entertain in it’s own right, swinging hard and exciting charts to their limit.

Quality, enthusiasm and professionalism set us apart – take a look around and see what we can do for you.

About

The Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra is now widely acclaimed as one of the U.K.’s top big bands. Its reputation has been founded on a consistently high quality of performance over two decades. In addition, audiences find they are infected by the enjoyment which band members bring to performances, and the excitement which the band generates.

These qualities have helped bring the band success in the BBC National Big Band Competition, initially during the eighties winning the Youth Section, but latterly being successful in the senior Competition. In fact the band has been unbeaten in the BBC competition since the mid-eighties, although, because of it success, it is now barred for two years from entering, following a win! MYJO has also been a winner in the Dutch National Big Band Competition, beating adult bands from The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

MYJO has toured extensively, performing at the world famous Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, visiting the USSR and appearing on national TV and performing in Moscow and Odessa. It has also performed in the USA including Disneyworld as well as across Europe.

MYJO has twice received awards from the IAJE for Outstanding Services to Jazz Education in Miami, Florida and Toronto, Canada. The band shared the stage with some of the great names of Jazz including the Yellowjackets and Oscar Peterson.

Among the other famous venues in which the band has performed are Ronnie Scott’s Club in London, the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, the Barbican, The Stables Wavendon with founder John Dankworth, and Symphony Hall in Birmingham. The band has appeared on both BBCTV and ITV and on many local and national radio stations.

MYJO has featured in concert with many famous names from the musical world, including Benny Carter, John Dankworth, Bobby Shew, Arturo Sandoval, Bob Florence, Stan Tracey, Jools Holland, and TV chat show host, Michael Parkinson. Many players from MYJO have entered the music profession, and some are becoming well known in their own right. Among these is the now internationally famous trombonist, Mark Nightingale. Several former members of MYJO play regularly for top bands like the BBC Radio Big Band, SLO, Robbie Williams Big Band.

The repertoire of the orchestra is intentionally very broad, and covers virtually the whole period of big band music. In this way Music Director, John Ruddick hopes to make students aware of their musical background. However, at the same time he attempts to develop a more contemporary emphasis to the band’s performance, and seeks a balance between good ensemble playing and exciting soloists, believing that each is essential for a band’s ultimate success.

Using its ‘Swing’ library, MYJO also performs at prestigious functions all over the UK, and also plays at many festivals, and conferences.

MYJO has returned to its home at the Midlands Arts Centre after it has undergone a multi-million pound refurbishment. Young players rise by audition from MYJO 3 and MYJO TOO!, as places become available. MYJO is a unique organisation by setting challenging standards for young musicians, and developing particular reading skills necessary for this music as well as the foundation skills required for professional music making.

Just get in touch to see how we can help.

Listen

Whether you’re in the mood for a barnstorming flag-raiser or something gentle and beautiful, MYJO has it covered.

With an incredible library of music curated over the course of his 30-year tenure as musical director by John Ruddick MBE, there’s something for everyone.

 

Don’t take our word for it though – have a listen to a sample below and experience for yourself what an amazing place MYJO is.

Education

The Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra is pleased to perform for School or College Workshops. This may take several forms.

1) Concert

Sometimes a performance by a well established youth jazz orchestra such as MYJO may be a stimulus to form a school big band, or to encourage the existing school band to broaden its repertoire, encourage solo playing, and increase its ensemble skills. We have performed a number of concerts where the majority of the audience is school pupils. In this case we can use the programme as a way of explaining the composition of the band, how it works, how solos are played and so on. If the school band is well established, we are more than happy to share a concert. This acts as an encouragement to the school band, and to us as well!

2) Workshop

a) with established School Band. John Ruddick, the musical director of MYJO, has undertaken many workshop/rehearsals with existing school bands. This can bring new ideas to the band and encourage new ways of approaching the music, or alternatively, as is often the case, reinforce the ideas of the school band’s musical director, giving back-up support and encouragement. The music performed may be from the school’s repertoire, or may be imported by MYJO, as required. The rehearsal may lead to a concert, or may be part of a long term approach to improving the band’s performance.

b) with relative beginners. If a school/college is thinking of introducing or extending improvisation in its programme, and would like help in setting out some ideas on improvisation and/or ensemble playing, we would be pleased to help. The workshop can be of any length, but obviously, a more extended period allows some development. Any length from a couple of school periods to a couple of days can be very useful.

Ideally, students should bring their own instruments, but sometimes, if this is not possible, a straightforward talk, followed by a question and answer session can be quite rewarding. The session would normally introduce a ‘live’ quartet or quintet, which can demonstrate the ideas being put forward, and can hold the group together during performance, offering practical help.

A general talk would normally cover some or all of the following areas.

  • Brief introduction to history of jazz
  • Development of improvisation
  • Development of ensemble playing
  • ‘Hot’ jazz and ‘cool’ jazz
  • Styles of playing – development of jazz reading skills
  • Introduction to chord types/chord symbols/ use of scales
  • Use of chord groups
  • Construction of solos

A series of handouts can be made available, both for the day and for reference afterwards. In all of these cases, the emphasis is on enjoying music, and of developing new musical skills. For more advanced players, the last three parts of the talk might be most appropriate. It has been the experience in MYJO that learning to improvise develops self assurance and confidence, and this confidence can be brought into the traditional musical arena. We are quite happy to conduct workshops with any instrumentation, and (within reason) any size of group. We would only ask we are given advance notice of the composition of such groups, so that we can plan ahead for the session.

To discuss your education project, please contact John Ruddick on 01675 442050.

Contact

To find out more about the award-winning Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra, just get in touch via the form below, email us @ johnruddick@myjo.co.uk or call us for a chat directly on 01675 442050 (or +44 1675 442050 from outside the UK).

Whichever way you choose to get in touch, we look forward to hearing from you.

 

Information for Parents

  • How do I join MYJO?

We are always looking for good young musicians, particularly for the younger bands.  If you feel you would like to join, do please contact us, either by telephone 01675 442050 or by email.

Some of the most asked questions are set out below. If you have any other queries, please do get in touch.

  • What age do I have to be to join MYJO?

There are no lower age limits to joining MYJO, but there is an upper age limit of 25 years. In the youngest band, players sometimes start as young as nine or ten.  The average ages for each band are: MYJO 3 10-15, MYJO TOO! 14-20, and the senior band 16-25 years, but these are only guidelines.  Players are placed in the band according to their ability, so occasionally we have a nineteen year old join with a need to improve music reading skills in MYJO 3.  Occasionally we have a 14 year old player in MYJO 1.

  • What standard do I have to be to join MYJO?

We are not looking for Grade passes in players joining MYJO, but they do help to give an indication of the general standard required. For MYJO 3, therefore Grade 4 standard would be required.  For MYJO TOO!, Grade 6-8, and for the senior band, grade 8+.  If you do not have these passes, you will not necessarily be excluded from MYJO, but they are a useful indicator of standard and your determination to succeed. What we are looking for are people with a liking for jazz, and with a willingness to ‘have a go’.  No previous experience in this kind of music is necessary for the youngest band.

If you are apprehensive about improvisation, but still like the idea of joining, please be assured that we give everyone time to settle into the band, and that no-one is forced to improvise before they feel ready.  Having said that, we hope that in due course, everyone will improvise, but we will show you how to go about it, so don’t worry!  For the older bands, previous experience of big band and jazz playing will be required. Very occasionally, players join the first band directly, but this will only happen if 1) we have a vacancy and 2) players have outstanding ability.  Most players will be expected to play in MYJO 3, or in MYJO TOO!, for a period before auditioning for the senior band.

  • Do I have to be able to improvise before joining MYJO?

No, you don’t, but we like to see people prepared to make the effort, even at the early stages. Improvising is great fun, and once you have made that first attempt, you will never look back.

  • Is there an audition for joining MYJO?

We like to hear everyone before they join MYJO. Very occasionally, we feel that people are just too young, and we advise them to come back in 6-12 months.  If you have a piece of music you feel you play well, then there’s a good chance we will enjoy it as well.  Auditions are very informal, so nothing to worry about.  For MYJO TOO!, we would be looking for experience in reading jazz, and probably some improvisation as well, but we are flexible.  We do feel that sight reading is important in this kind of music, and we therefore ask everyone to attempt a piece at an appropriate level.

  • How much does it cost to join MYJO?

The subscription from September 2008 – August 2009 is £40 and can be payed weekly, termly or in advance, annually. MYJO rehearses virtually throughout the year, including most holidays, so this represents good value for money. During heavy holiday periods, when many people are absent, we combine the two younger bands. If you have a genuine problem in paying your subscription, please talk to us; there may be a solution.

  • Do I have to pay for a uniform?

Above is our attractive logo as designed by Mike Beaumont, the founder of MYJO.  This is shown on MYJO Tee Shirts which are provided FREE at the time of your first concert with MYJO.  A three band concert is performed at the end of every school term, usually on a Sunday lunchtime.  If you would like to see MYJO before joining, come and see us at one of these concerts, or alternatively, come along to our rehearsals and have a look.

The three band concert offers the opportunity for parents and friends to see MYJO in action, and to see the older more accomplished players performing as well.  This also gives younger players an opportunity to assess their own standard, with a view to movement up to the next orchestra.  This termly concert is the culmination of each band’s hard work and is a great time for us to share in each others progress.

  • What do you expect of me in MYJO?

We hope that when you join MYJO, you will stay with us for a long time, aim for the highest standards, and enjoy your music at the same time.  MYJO is well reputed not only in the UK but abroad as well. Remember that we are all in MYJO because we want to be, not because we have to be.  We have a responsibility to ensure that MYJO is well thought of, not only on stage, but also because of the way it conducts itself off stage as well.

Rehearsals

MYJO rehearses on Wednesday evenings at the Midlands Arts Centre (mac), Edgbaston Road, Birmingham

MYJO 3 rehearses from  6.45pm – 7.45pm

MYJO Too! rehearses from 7.45 – 9.45pm

MYJO 1 rehearses from 7.45 -10.00pm

Members from MYJO 3 can stay on if they wish, for the first half of the MYJO 2 rehearsal

Guest Artists

The Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra has been proud to work with the following distinguished music celebrities.

* denotes artists that have recorded CD’s with the band

Kenny Baker Mark Nightingale Bill Berry
Dennis Noday Jiggs Whigam Benny Carter
Marion Montgomery George Chisholm Danny Moss
Angela Christian Buddy Childers Conte Candoli
Bud Shank Nigel Nash John Dankworth
BBC Big Band Bill Perkins Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis
Courtney Pine Herb Ellis Alan Randall
Syd Lawrence Orch. Digby Fairweather Spike Robinson
Gordon Campbell Paul Eshelby Herb Geller
Andy Martin Pete Christlieb Arturo Sandoval
Lee Gibson Brenda Scott Salena Jones
Barney Kessel Bobby Shew * Peter King
Dave O’Higgins Art Themen Stan Tracey
Jeannie Lambe Richard Torres Don Lusher
Rob McConnell Olaf Vas Ian McDougall
Lanny Morgan * Tommy Whittle Dick Morrissey
Phil Wilson Victor Mendoza Ricky Woodard
Kathy Stobart Georgie Fame Jeff Hooper
Allen Vizzutti Guy Barker Nigel Hitchcock
Jools Holland Rosemary Squires Gary Wilmott
Bill Watrous Duncan Lamont Roy Williams
John Barnes Alan Barnes Bruce Adams
Jack Parnell Bob Florence Dave Horler
Elaine Delmar Madeline Bell Ronnie Hughes
Jamie Cullum Frank Mantooth Michael Parkinson
Henry Lowther Stan Sulzmann Marlene Ver Planck
Denis Lotis Jacqui Dankworth Ken Peplowski
John Horler John Etheridge Julian Siegel
Greg Abate Clare Teal Marlene VerPlanck
Stephen Triffitt

Gigs

TBC