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Taking Jazz on Tour

Thu 18 November 2021

Our students are mixing up their performance schedule to help lead change for the future of jazz.

Driven by a desire to “break down barriers” and “bring awareness”, bands from our celebrated Jazz Department are combining their regular gig schedule with touring local schools to connect with grass-roots musicians and inspire the next generation of music makers.

The interactive performances introduce pupils to instruments and music of jazz from 1930s jazz ‘Big Band’ to the present day. They also explore the building blocks of jazz, including improvisation, chord sequences and riffs.

Hans Koller, Trinity Laban’s Head of Jazz comments –

“The emphasis of Jazz on Tour is on performance. To inspire, to bring in our role models, to open ears, to show the quality of jazz and how it all started and still swings.”

After kicking things off at St Dunstan’s College in Lewisham, the Trinity Laban Fletcher Henderson Project is visiting Greenwich’s Middle Park Primary and Tower Hamlets’ William Davis Primary, as well as secondary schools John Roan School (Greenwich) and Pimlico Academy (Westminster). From January, Richard Henry’s Studio Band and the Trinity Laban Jazz Orchestra will take over the tour.

At secondary schools, aspiring musicians are given the opportunity to join the bands and play alongside conservatoire students, offering a taste of big band playing and full immersion in jazz performance.

St Dunstan’s students expressed how welcoming and engaging the session had been –

“I haven’t really improvised before, so it was interesting trying it out, especially in front of an audience. It was scary but fun.”

“It was really nerve-wracking cause everyone was really good, but everyone was really nice and really encouraging. So even if I did something wrong, which I did, I tried!”

Malcolm Earle-Smith, who leads the Trinity Laban Fletcher Henderson Project, explained –

“Every week the band gets great pleasure playing this wonderful music and we wanted to get out there and share it. There are all sorts of things you can learn about melody, harmony and form from earlier types of jazz; and, of course, the importance of rhythm, and how to make music ‘swing’. Being close to the blues, it also teaches us about personal expression. The element of improvisation gives you a chance to put your personal stamp on the music.

“Our undergraduate students have really benefitted from playing music from the 1930s and we want to show other young musicians they can too. This music has great vibrancy and energy. Once you start to understand it, it opens all kinds of doors.”

Other opportunities to see Trinity Laban Fletcher Henderson Project this year will be at the EFG London Jazz Festival (Sun 21 Nov) as part of The London Line-Up at The Clore Ballroom, Royal Festival Hall. Also on the bill is The Jazz Hang @ Trinity Laban with Tomorrow’s Warriors. Now in it’s second year, the programme is a partnership between the conservatoire and Tomorrow’s Warriors, offering a weekly get together for aspiring young musicians focusing on sparking creativity and harnessing a love of jazz.

Alongside visiting local schools, musicians from the Jazz Department have also been celebrating NHS heroes with a series of lunchtime concerts at St George’s hospital in Tooting. The performances form part of the hospital’s initiative to thank staff and show gratitude for their astonishing work over the past 18 months.

To find out more about Jazz at Trinity Laban.