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Audition

If you think you’d enjoy our Summer School, we want to meet you!

That’s why every year NYJC’s 14-day national audition tour hears hundreds of gifted young jazz musicians, playing improvised music from a host of different styles, on a wide range of instruments and from a wealth of different cultural backgrounds.

Let’s be clear – we don’t think jazz is just for trumpets, saxophones, drums and double basses (though we love them!) – we’ve already worked with sitars, violins, French horns, bassoons and singers and are keen to work with more. The music we play looks to an eclectic mix of influences from jazz to rock and rap to classical, world music, fusion and funk, while giving everything a fresh and new spin, so it’s definitely unique and of the twenty-first century.

Auditionees don’t have to have grades on their instrument. It costs nothing to come and audition. Our multi-award winning Artistic Director Issie Barratt will guide you through the audition and always gives positive and helpful feedback in your final outcome letter (she’s really kind and anyone that doesn’t get in always gets signposted to opportunities that will help further develop your jazz in time for next year’s auditions!). We’d all love to meet you!

NYJC England map

Audition Process

When you arrive at the audition, you will be greeted by a member of our team who will support you through your audition day. They will take you to a warm up room before introducing you to the accompanist who will have 5 minutes to talk/play through your 3 pieces with you.

Instrumentalists and improvising singers

Three people will be with you during your audition; two adjudicators and a jazz pianist (who will be accompanying you in your pieces and running some of the practical aural tests). All three are keen to make sure your audition is as relaxed and creative as possible, so please do tell us if we can do anything to help you during your audition day (including any special access needs you might have).

The audition has 5 sections –  you can choose which order you want to do them in  – you will be asked to do all of the following:

1. A simple Blues

Perform a head (the main tune) and three improvised choruses of a mid tempo blues in F (from memory i.e. without using a lead sheet), which will be accompanied by the jazz pianist.

2. Two contrasting pieces

Perform 2 contrasting pieces lasting no more than a total of 8 minutes. Both pieces should begin with an opening ‘head arrangement’ (i.e. a melody, accompanied by a chord progression). This should then be followed by an improvised solo section, which is based on the same chord progression as accompanies the opening head (In both pieces, drummers will be expected to accompany the head, take a solo and trade four, two and one bars with the pianist). Candidates are invited to perform an original piece as one of their two selected pieces.

We’d like to encourage all candidates, where possible, to play their two prepared pieces from memory, so that they can really focus on improvising over the chord changes and interacting with the accompanying pianist. However, this is not obligatory and use of a lead sheet for these two pieces will not influence the outcome of the audition.

All candidates will be expected to provide appropriate concert lead sheets for the accompanying jazz pianist.
Lead sheet example
Guidance on how to write a leadsheet

In the case of piano or guitar auditions, the provided piano accompanist will take on the role of a jazz bass.

Drummers will also be asked to play a variety of grooves and feels (using sticks, brushes and mallets) from a specific list of grooves.

3. Aural tests

You’ll be asked to listen to 2-3 short phrases, each played twice on the piano. You will then be asked to play them back on your instrument (or sing them back if your main instrument is voice or drums).

download example ear tests

4. Improvisation and harmonic understanding

We ask you to improvise over two simple chord progressions written especially for the audition, using accessible, standard jazz harmony. The first will use a simple progression of up to four chords, which will be repeated by the pianist, so that the candidate relies on their ears to work out the changes. The second will be a notated progression of up to eight chords using chord symbols.

Download example harmony tests.

5. Conversation

Take part in a short conversation so we can hear about your individual interests and hear any questions you may have for us.

What happens next?

A few weeks after the end of all auditions you will hear whether or not you have been offered a place on one of our courses. Each year we give you an indication of when that will be but we do not discuss your marks/assessment on the day.