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.