The musician aims to create a jazz scene in Northern Ireland with a young orchestra

A Mobo Award-nominated musician is aiming to inspire the next generation of talent by founding Northern Ireland’s first children’s improvisational jazz band.

Musical theater and drummer David Lyttle founded Jazz Juniors because of a lack of opportunities for young players, which often caused them to move away in search of work.

Jazz Juniors consists of nine musicians, ages 10-16, from all over Northern Ireland.


Jazz Juniors Ensemble (NI/PA Arts Council)

“I come from Northern Ireland and live here, but over a long period of time I started to notice that many well-qualified jazz musicians in Northern Ireland were forced to move,” says Lyttle. Most of my work is abroad.

“Jazz music is something that allows you to start at an early age. It is very difficult, that is the highest level of musical expression.

“It takes the technique and discipline of a classical musician, but the main part is your improvisation and your personality as a musician. It is a lifelong mission.

“It was very difficult to start playing jazz as an adult. We never really learned about jazz in Northern Ireland.

“I emphasize that if there’s ever a scene that’s formed and musicians are going to stay in this country, then there needs to be some form of education and it needs to happen at an early age.”


David Lyttle with Jazz Juniors (NI/PA Arts Council)

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He added: “Many musicians get to a good level and they can’t find a job, there’s really no scene here or a big group of musicians to work with.

“Young people who were part of the first Jazz Juniors band came from a classical, folk, singer-songwriter background.

“It was a small group of nine people from around the country. They work very hard and I work with them once a month.

“Most of them don’t have an instrument teacher and they mostly learn jazz with me by ear. This is a difficult form of music and it requires a lot of individual work.

“The growth at all of them is just amazing because they really want to get better and every month they improve.

“This project is the first of its kind. There are many programs where young people can learn classical and folk music, rock and pop, but we have never had a jazz program.

“There are always young people who are very gifted with their instruments who have reached a high level and they are looking for something a little different and will challenge them.


Young musicians playing in the Jazz Juniors Orchestra (NI/PA Arts Council)

“We encourage them to learn the rich tradition of jazz and respect it, but end up using it as a foundation.

“One of the results is that there will be more jazz musicians in Northern Ireland. This is our first gig, we’re half a year into it. In the second year, we will take on another team and continue to grow.

“Once we are fully operational in three and a half years, there will be about 40 young musicians who will be eager to learn jazz and will have the talent and ability to do it.

“There will be a larger context but the main thing is that these young people are having the opportunity to discover their talents and discover the kind of music that really challenges them.”

Part of the Jazz Juniors program, sponsored by the NI Arts Council, allows young musicians to play at venues with established jazz performers.

Jazz Juniors will open for Lyttle and his band at Black Box in Belfast this Saturday as part of the Brilliant Corners Festival. The musician aims to create a jazz scene in Northern Ireland with a young orchestra

Fry Electronics Team

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