All students at the RNCM are given the freedom to explore an interest in or pursue their passion for jazz.
Throughout your time at the College, you will have the opportunity to expand your experience and knowledge of jazz styles and improvisation, and to play in large and small jazz ensembles.
Specialist Jazz Tuition
As part of the BMus programme, students can opt to undertake jazz electives within Academic Studies and Artist Development activities. Through these electives, you will develop a knowledge of core jazz repertoire, understand how to approach improvising on different styles of piece, and explore the practical aspects of putting together a jazz performance. This flexible approach enables you to explore jazz throughout your studies at the RNCM perhaps specialising in this field as your course progresses.
In between high school and College I spent two years really focusing on jazz. I applied to several different conservatoires but decided to come to the RNCM because the course is really flexible. You can play a mix of jazz, pop, rock, R&B, electronic, hip-hop – whatever you want. One of my teachers is Steve Berry, jazz is his thing and his lessons are mind-blowing… Through the RNCM I’ve gotten some amazing jazz performance opportunities. I play in a jazz group called Andchuck with the Jazz North Scheme, an initiative of Arts Council England. We’ve been able to do a bunch of festivals this year, including Manchester Jazz Festival. That’s been really fun… Manchester itself has some good jazz venues; I’ve recently been playing gigs at Matt and Phreds in Northern Quarter – there’s a nice vibe there with people just going to watch the music. I got my first opportunity to play there through College and then developed some contacts.
Thomas Chapman, BMus (Hons) Popular Music, Bass Guitar
Masterclasses and Tuition from Respected Jazz Performers and Teachers
Students undertaking options in jazz will receive tuition from a variety of visiting artists and musicians who are prolific on the professional jazz scene. Visiting tutors have recently included saxophonists Tim Garland, Bob Mintzer and Chris Potter, and vibraphonist Victor Mendoza.
You may also have the opportunity to take part in a series of masterclasses with high-profile artists, who have recently included saxophonists Evan Parker and Jerry Bergonzi, and guitarist Mike Walker.
I’ve been into so many different genres of music. I enjoy everything but jazz is the thing that’s always been there, the constant. I just love it, I love the expression… Here at College I have the opportunity to play as much jazz as I want to. That’s why the course is good because you can tailor it to whatever you want. My teacher is David Hassell, massively into jazz, and I can talk to him about whatever I want and really pick his brains… Manchester has some great jazz venues. I have friends who run brilliant jam nights at the Deli-Lama in Salford. There are also good jam nights at the Thirsty Scholar on Oxford Road, and getting more on the experimental side Fuel in Withington is another great venue.
William Graham, BMus (Hons) Popular Music, Drums
Students have the opportunity to perform to public audiences with the RNCM Jazz Collective and RNCM Big Band. The RNCM Big Band performs five times a year in the RNCM Theatre and regularly attracts large audiences through its loyal following.
The RNCM Big Band has recently performed alongside renowned jazz musicians including pianists John Taylor, Gwilym Simcock, Alex Wilson, and Nikki Iles; guitarist Mike Walker; drummer Clark Tracey, keyboard player Colin Towns; trumpeter Ryan Quigley; and singers Clare Teal and Matt Ford.
The College Big Band gets better and better. We’ve been attending for about 20 years and find it hard to believe these wonderful musicians are students! Congrats to Mike Hall for his efforts in building such a splendid ensemble…’
Audience member, RNCM Big Band Billy Strayhorn evening
A number of our alumni are enjoying success as performing jazz musicians, including:
Beats & Pieces Big Band led by Ben Cottrell
Ensemble of the Year at UK Parliamentary Jazz Awards 2014
Shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize 2014
Saxophonist with the Sam Healey Quartet
Claire James Trio
Recent performances include the Manchester Jazz Festival and the BBC Proms Plus Series at the Royal Albert Hall.
Saxophonist; first woman to join the Chris Barber Big Band.
Singer and violinist; debut album China Lane released in 2014 to critical acclaim
In addition, RNCM jazz quintet Artephis has been selected as the latest beneficiary of the Jazz North Introduces scheme, and are scheduled to release an EP this year.
‘As a professional musician I perform classical music, mostly in duos but often as a soloist, however my main focus is performing and composing music with my trio GoGo Penguin. We play original works inspired by everything from Shostakovich to Massive Attack which focus heavily on group improvisation. My approach to composing and performing has been greatly influenced by my time at the RNCM. Alongside classical studies I was also able to study contemporary piano and a variety of jazz electives. I’d always been into a wide range of music from an early age and having the freedom to explore those styles alongside like-minded musicians was a great experience. The ethos of jazz and improvised music should encourage freedom and creativity. It was the opportunity to study a variety of musical styles, working with open minded musicians from many different backgrounds – both teachers and students – that enabled me to develop the skills which have led me to where I am today.’
Chris Illingworth, Piano 2007, now pianist with GoGoPenguin