The NYJF is probably the most significant single youth jazz development initiative in South Africa, and the teaching programme is a critical component of the festival. The NYJF employs specialist jazz educators for the festival and performing artists are chosen also on the basis of their teaching ability.
South Africa is a country of extremes, and this shows particularly in the students who attend the NYJF – we draw young players from over the entire country, with a significant gender and ethnic mix, but while some have a background that has given them excellent formal musical education up to Jazz Masters Degree level, others, despite their natural talent, have had no formal education at all, and come from extremely impoverished areas.
Students are accepted in three groups: tertiary students, secondary students and development students, the latter of which stipulates indigence and educational disadvantage as prerequisites. Our country’s history has doomed many of its inhabitants to poverty, with no chance of meeting their artistic potential, and the festival attempts to make a tangible difference to this situation.
The NYJF offers a variety of jazz workshops, and musicians and teachers are allocated to the teaching schedule depending upon their teaching strengths. On offer are:
- National Youth and National Schools’ Bands are selected through an audition process to recognise and challenge the best young players in the country, and they practise and perform during the NYJF.
- All other students are divided into mixed-ability big bands which practise daily, giving a chance to students who do not normally play in a quality ensemble. 12 rehearsal venues with good equipment are provided. These bands perform to an in-house audience.
- Vocalists are specifically catered for in vocal workshops led by professional singers, and there are also opportunities of singing in a festival jazz choir or performing solo (often with professional rhythm section backing) on the Main Stage.
- There are small ensemble workshops that focus on jazz improvisation and also instrument master classes.
- Assorted workshops are offered in jazz history, theory, practice and its associated disciplines such as sound engineering and management.
- Students have the opportunity to meet individually with the performers and artists also present talks on their personal philosophy and experience of jazz.
- Seminars are held which focus particularly on South African jazz heritage.
- Students can attend CD launches.
- There are many opportunities for student performance – either with their established bands, or in groups created at the festival.
- Students are encouraged to attend all performances (up to 6 a day) and have free entry into each.