The Junior Jazz programme, part of the Junior Academy department, has been developing the next generation of jazz musicians since 2003. It helps young musicians aged 14 to 18 grow their skills, confidence and passion for jazz. Previous students of the course include Michael Kiwanuka, Alexandra Ridout and Ezra Collective members Joseph Armon-Jones, Femi Koleoso and Ife Ogunjobi.
Before performing at Glastonbury and winning 5 GRAMMY Awards, multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier also attended the Academy's Junior Jazz course. Looking back on his time on the programme, he writes: ‘It was far beyond a learning experience for me – it was truly formative. To be around young harmony- and rhythm-loving fiends like myself at that age was a game-changer. I still think about and regularly use lessons I learnt on Saturday afternoons. I feel so privileged to have been a part of it.’ Fellow alum Kit Downes, Pianist/organist and ECM recording artist, agrees, and writes: '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.'
In celebration of the course's 20th anniversary, a concert directed by the Academy's Heads of Jazz and Junior Jazz, Nick Smart and Gareth Lockrane, will take place on Saturday 30 September. Three bands made up of the course's world-class alumni, including Dan Higham (trombone), Rosie Frater-Taylor (guitar/vocals), Josh Blackmore (drums) and many more, will take to the stage of the Susie Sainsbury Theatre. All alumni are generously giving their time and playing for free, with all sales profits going towards Junior Academy bursaries for young musicians from all backgrounds.
Tom Walsh, one of Europe’s most in-demand lead trumpeters who has performed with the WDR Big Band, BBC Big Band, Philharmonia Orchestra and Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, also features in this concert. Of his time on the Junior Jazz course, he writes: '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.’
Taking place on the day of concert, Junior Jazz alumna and bassist Daisy George will lead a morning workshop for young musicians from across London who aren't currently students at Junior Academy, organised by the Widening Participation department. Later on, current students of the Academy's Jazz course will lead a post-show jam session to continue the celebrations into the evening.
JUNIOR JAZZ AT 20, Saturday 30 September, 7pm - book tickets here
Image 1: Jacob Collier receiving a Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Music at the 2023 graduation ceremony
Image 2: Trumpeter and Junior Jazz alum Tom Walsh