As one of the UK’s leading music organisations, Town Hall & Symphony Hall has a responsibility to not just bring the world’s best musicians to Birmingham, but to discover, develop and promote homegrown musical talent.
In amongst a programme of around 800 events each year, hundreds of sessions, rehearsals, workshops, discussions and other practical educational experiences take place – delivered by a very active Education and Community team in partnership with the Jazzlines team amongst others.
The Jazzlines Summer School, now in it’s third year, is one such example of investment in artists – part of a major plan to introduce music to young people in Birmingham through school concerts, community work, outreach projects and in partnership with Birmingham Conservatoire.
“I first started learning music with weekly guitar lessons at my primary school.” explains Romarna Campbell, during a break from performing on stage at Symphony Hall as part of Music For Youth’s Primary Proms programme.
“Those guitar lessons turned in to weekly flute lessons, after which I joined a music school and started to play classical piano and flute. Then one week my piano lesson was cancelled and I ended up taking a percussion workshop – which was brilliant! From there I worked through my drumming grades.”
“Around that time I came to a Jazzlines gig here at Symphony Hall – Andy Hamilton was playing. I didn’t know who he was and I remember my Mum saying ‘He’s a real pioneer for jazz and for the city.’ When Andy walked through the foyer in his suit it was amazing. He was around 83/84 at the time. I stood in a queue of people to meet him at the end, I was absolutely buzzing! I was just so impressed by the fact he was playing at his age and the music that he was playing. Andy said ‘I’ve got this band; you should come to a rehearsal’. I went to a Notebenders rehearsal the next day!”
Andy Hamilton MBE. Image: Laura Reid
“I also applied for the (Birmingham) Junior Conservatoire at the same time as Nick (Adams).” Romarna goes on to say. “It was nice to be around people who are all into the same music as me; to be able to say ‘Have you checked out this record by Charlie Parker?’ and for someone to know who I was talking about.”
“A lot of the music I’d made previously was from sheet music, so having to develop learning by ear and really getting into the music and explore each piece is great.”
The Jazzlines Ensemble
Romarna is one of a number of talented young jazz artists who make up the Jazzlines Ensemble – a group of musicians receiving guidance, tuition and performance opportunities via Jazzlines, Town Hall & Symphony Hall’s dynamic programme of live jazz performances and education projects across Birmingham. Fellow bandmate and pianist Nick Adams followed a similar path into music as Romarna, inspired after discovering jazz.
“I’ve been playing the piano for a while now, since primary school.” says Nick. “I started with classical piano and when I got to 14 I started getting into jazz and variations of classical music like George Gershwin.”
“I started trying to teach myself jazz – I’d look on YouTube, read books and just follow my instinct. I knew how to voice some kinds of chords but not a lot. I really prefer the freedom of jazz – as you get to make up your own voicing and your own solo lines. In Year 11 I started to take it pretty seriously – I applied to Junior Conservatoire to study jazz last year – and got in! The Conservatoire has just been so helpful. I’ve been working solidly for the past year in order to get a place to study jazz at degree level.”
“I first came into contact with Jazzlines last July; Romarna told me that she was in a big band jazz group and said that I should check it out. I applied for the 2013 Jazzlines Summer School and really enjoyed it. I like that I got to play with other people my age. They were all as enthusiastic as I was, no one slacks off and we all get to have a great time making good music together.”
The Jazzlines Ensemble and Summer School performed in Symphony Hall Cafe Bar in August 2013
Applications for the Jazzlines Summer School 2014 are now being accepted. Clickhere for more information on how to apply.