National Youth Jazz Orchestra, one of our Resident Artistic Companies, exist to empower young jazz musicians and inspire music audiences across the UK. We caught up with Roger Wilson, NYJO’s Head of Professional Development.
Roger’s been with the organisation for the last five years and as someone with a lifelong attachment to Woolwich, he’s excited to see the impact NYJO and Woolwich Works will have.
Growing up in Woolwich
I grew up in Woolwich back in the day when the area brought with it a lot of challenges. Between high unemployment and complex political dynamics, Woolwich was always a very interesting place to live! I’m under no illusion that many of these challenges are still present today and I want NYJO and Woolwich Works to provide meaningful opportunities for the local community.
My old school was Woolwich Polytechnic. It’s no longer in the area, but I still remember the walk from home to the school gates in the heart of Woolwich. It was a real garrison town and my friends and I were fortunate to be taught to play musical instruments by bandsmen from the Kings Troop, Royal Horse Artillery. Music has been my life ever since.
Woolwich is rich in cultural diversity - music, dance and drama run through the veins of this ever-developing area. It’s coming into the national focus and I’m really looking forward to seeing the area become the hub of arts activity. It’s very exciting to be back!
Roger's work with NYJO
I began working with young people in music education 10 years ago and I’ve given almost all of my time to help the next generation progress. As Orchestra Manager for NYJO I manage everything to do with general operations and personnel. This involves a variety of tasks – from arranging transport to organising food and everything in between!
I recently took on the Head of Professional Development role, that is specifically geared towards empowering our young musicians from the age of 16 upwards. For the younger cohort, this involves mentoring and making sure there are clear pathways for them to progress into our leading ensembles.
For our older musicians, our focus is on giving support to those who want to become professional musicians so they can begin their careers with confidence. This can range from advance instrumental coaching, to industry-specific insights in areas such as marketing, promotion and finance management. It’s very rewarding for me and my colleagues to see these musicians progress from young, inexperienced performers to the point where they’re moving successfully into a profession they’re so passionate about.