The musician aims to create a jazz scene in Northern Ireland with a junior ensemble

A Mobo Award-nominated musician aims to inspire the next generation of talent through the formation of the first-ever junior improvisational jazz ensemble in Northern Ireland.

Composer and drummer David Lyttle started Jazz Juniors because of the lack of opportunities for young players, which often forced them to move away to find work.

Jazz Juniors is made up of nine musicians, aged 10 to 16, from across Northern Ireland.

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Jazz Juniors Ensemble (Arts Council NI/PA)

Jazz Juniors Ensemble (Arts Council NI/PA)

Lyttle said: ‘I come from Northern Ireland and am based here, but over the years I started noticing that many jazz musicians who had reached a good standard in Northern Ireland were forced to move . Most of my work is abroad.

“Jazz is something that lends itself to being started at an early age. It’s very difficult, it’s the highest level of musical expression.

“It requires the technique and discipline of a classical musician, but the main thing is improvisation and your personality as a musician. It’s a lifelong quest.

“It’s very difficult to start in jazz as an adult. We never really had a jazz education here in Northern Ireland.

“It struck me that if ever a scene was formed and musicians were to stay in this country, then there had to be some form of education and it had to be done at an early age.”

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David Lyttle with Jazz Juniors (Arts Council NI/PA)


David Lyttle with Jazz Juniors (Arts Council NI/PA)

David Lyttle with Jazz Juniors (Arts Council NI/PA)

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He added: “A lot of musicians are coming up to a good level and they can’t find work, there’s not really a scene here or a big pool of musicians to work with.

“The young people who are part of the first Jazz Juniors ensemble come from classical backgrounds, folk backgrounds, singer-songwriter backgrounds.

“It’s a small group of nine people from all over the country. They work very hard and I work with them once a month.

“Most of them don’t have a teacher on their instruments and they learn jazz with me mainly by ear. It is a difficult form of music and it takes a lot of work on the part of the individual.

“The development in all of them is just amazing because they really want to improve and every month they are improving.

“This project is the first of its kind. There are many programs where young people can learn classical music and folk, rock and pop, but we have never had a jazz program.

“There are always young people who are very gifted on their instruments, who have reached a high level of maturity and who are looking for something a little different and which will challenge them.

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Young musicians playing in the Jazz Juniors ensemble (Arts Council NI/PA)


Young musicians playing in the Jazz Juniors ensemble (Arts Council NI/PA)

Young musicians playing in the Jazz Juniors ensemble (Arts Council NI/PA)

“We encourage them to learn the rich jazz tradition and respect it, but ultimately use it as a platform.

“One outcome is that there will be more jazz musicians in Northern Ireland. This is our first set, we are halfway through year one. In year two we will take another together and will continue to grow.

“Once we are fully operational in three and a half years, there will be around 40 young musicians who are eager to learn jazz and have the talent and ability to do so.

“There will be a bigger stage, but the main thing is that these young people have the chance to explore their talent and explore a type of music that really challenges them.”

Part of the Jazz Juniors program, funded by the Arts Council NI, allows young musicians to perform in venues with established jazz artists.

Jazz Juniors will open for Lyttle and his band at the Black Box in Belfast this Saturday as part of the Brilliant Corners Festival.

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