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Making music

JazWorkshopOct2021 420pxThe Music department is delighted to be able to run extracurricular activities again this year.

As well as commencing the rehearsals for Orchestra, Jazz Band, Steel Band and Choir we are also running Jazz Workshops in collaboration with Deal Music and Arts. We had a fantastic time last month when Joe Browne led a workshop on Tenor Sax, accompanied by Arthur O'Hara on Bass, and Connie Chesters in Year 10 has shared her experience.

"Jazz Journey is a programme run by Deal Music and Arts which brings together musicians of any standard from the ages of 11 to 18, with the aim of developing jazz skills in young musicians nationwide.

On Monday 18 October, we had our first workshop at Dane Court since late 2019, and it was amazing. We covered 2 pieces which we learned by ear (without sheet music), called 'Lester Leaps In' by Count Bassie and 'Caravan' by Duke Ellington. The leaders of the workshop, Joe and Arthur, started to teach us the pieces by teaching us the scales for the keys that the pieces were in. Once we had grasped those, Joe and Arthur taught the horns (brass and woodwind) the melody, including a few harmonies to make the sound interesting, and the piano and guitar players learned the chord sequence and the rhythm of the piece. Then Arthur went through a few rhythms that could work with the drummer, and it was all put together. We learned one of the 2 most important chord sequences in jazz - rhythm changes. Using this, we were able to have a good go at Lester Leaps In, and play it through well. The only thing that was missing was improvisation, so that was then added by rearranging the notes of the scales we'd learned earlier. We all had a go, and it was difficult to spontaneously create music that sounded good, but we were learning and it was really great, especially the horns! Putting everything we learned together was satisfying and it sounded amazing.

The hardest part for the horns was probably the transposing (since the horns weren't tuned to concert pitch, which is the same pitch as the piano, the players had to transpose everything so that it sounded the same). It was impressive how they all picked it up so quickly, and transposed so easily. The hardest part for the drums was probably in Caravan by Duke Ellington, where the rhythm had to change seamlessly from latin to swing, which involved a great deal of concentration from the drummer!
The leaders, Joe and Arthur, play the saxophone and the bass guitar. Joe is the one in charge mostly, and conducts the whole ensemble, whilst Arthur is in charge of the rhythm section (pianos, guitar, bass and drums). They're both incredible musicians, and what's so inspiring about them is that you can see the love for what they do in their playing, and they want to pass on their knowledge and love of jazz to us. They're both really great teachers and we're glad that we've been given the opportunity to learn from them.
My favourite thing about the workshop is the improvisation, because it needs the most practise to learn and get the feel for. Also, it needs a good feel for the music and I find the spontaneity of improvisation really interesting, especially with the rhythms that people can create, and the patterns, because it expresses who you are as a developing musician.

I have been inspired to play more jazz because of the groove and feel of it, which is something I love. I would recommend Jazz Journey as a great place to start learning about jazz to anyone who's interested in trying to learn, because it's inclusive and teaches you, building the pieces and your skills from the ground up. For anyone who's starting to learn to play jazz, my top tip for you would be to really throw yourself into it, because the more effort you give, the more you get out of it."

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