AH: Hello, it’s Anita here and welcome to the latest podcast. In this episode, I’m talking with pioneering and award-winning jazz musicians, educators and producers, Janine Irons, and Gary Crosby, who together run the music education and professional development charity, Tomorrow’s Warriors. I don’t really know where to start with telling you about all that they’ve both done, the accolades they’ve received, and their many achievements from the Queen’s Medal for Music, to an OBE, an MBE, to working with people like Courtney Pine, bringing on artists like Soweto Kinch and Denys Baptiste. So I’m just going to suggest that if you don’t already know them, that you check out their profiles on their websites or on Wikipedia and prepare to be blown away, as I am, that you’ve agreed to come on the podcast. So thank you both so much, and welcome to the podcast.
JI & GC: Thank you. Thanks for having us, and thanks for inviting us.
AH: You’re really welcome. I usually start these conversations by asking people how they ended up where they are today. I think in your cases, we’d need a whole programme just to talk about that. So I wonder if you could tell me how you first got involved in music and how perhaps that’s informed what you do today with Jazz Warriors.
GC: Um, Tomorrow’s Warriors you mean?
AH: Tomorrow’s Warriors, I’m sorry. Of course, because that’s part of your history isn’t it, Jazz Warriors as well.
GC: So yeah, I was an integral part. My first encounter with music was in 1964. I woke up one morning and saw a guitar in my mum’s kitchen. The guitar belonged to Ernest Ranglin, and it really starts there. It took a long time to get to becoming a full-time musician, but it starts there. And all that encounters, all that was required, you know, lessons from community centre, lessons from aunties, hanging out with other family members who play music.
AH: Oh lovely, so informal learning was kind of the start for you.
GC: Yeah, I did private teaching, but informal learning was the start. It wasn’t only the start, it was supposed to be the end. According to that, you know, that’s what you do. You learn to play music in the family. You play it, you know, likkle function, round da house, that’s it, they didn’t understand the whole concept of professional musicians and those that they did know, they would consider that I can’t remember the name they had for them. It’s almost like, you know, wasters, you know what I mean?
GC: Yeah, that’s how it was viewed. These are working class people, possibly, but it wasn’t aggressive.
JI: I guess it just wasn’t really seen as a career.
GC: It wasn’t seen as a career, yeah.
AH: It’s still not in many places, unfortunately, isn’t it? I think many young people have that problem with their families.
GC: Yeah, according to my dad I should go out and get a job.
JI: I think mine was quite good really, because my parents were really keen to get all of us playing music and being involved in the arts in some way. I mean, it was partly about getting into a good school, you know, we had the local Grammar School, and my parents knew that, you know, by learning music, it can also support your academic achievement, I think. So that was one thing, but also, you know, my mother came from a quite artistic family as well. So I learnt classical piano as a child from the age of seven. And I also took dancing lessons and all that. So yeah, and I continued learning for about nine years you know, and won scholarships and had fantastic music teachers. And then when I was about 16, I started singing lead vocal in a funk band, which looking back on it was just so diverse. I mean, it was incredible. This is long before anyone started talking about diversity. We had everybody in there, you know, all sorts. So that really was my journey into music and then my first office job was actually working for Boosey and Hawkes the music publishers. So again, I suppose it brought me closer to the music. And unfortunately, it was the terrible pay in music that got me to go to the city in the end.
AH: Oh, really?
JI: Yeah, I’ve kind of come full circle. Thankfully, you know, I’m so thankful that I did. So that’s my musical background.
AH: Oh, so you’ve both got quite different routes, progression routes, sort of into music and into the industry. Can you tell me about how you kind of came, well, how Tomorrow’s Warriors came about and about what it is today, and the change it wants to bring about?
GC: It kind of starts with me coming back from Jamaica, it would have been possibly 1990, and it didn’t really get started until 1991. I came back from Jamaica in 1991 with the desire to do something that was to do something for young black people that I knew, who were playing music at the time, but had no opportunity. So I used my name, and my contacts to get a gig started for them to come and engage. And it really started just as a jam session.
AH: Oh, okay.
GC: It was just a place where we used to meet other artists from other disciplines, started to use the space and it doesn’t really become Tomorrow’s Warriors until we meet Janine. We put the structure.
GC: So basically how I put it is, up until that time, we were having fun. We were just jazz musicians having fun. And then we meet Janine, and then it becomes work. It’s still fun, but it’s work.
AH: Amazing. And so what was that moment when you met Jeanine? How did that come about?
JI: It was at a gig wasn’t it?
GC: Yeah, it was at a Jazz Jamaica gig.
JI: At the Union Chapel in Islington.
GC: And I politely asked her if she was a photographer. And she responded in a very haughty and kind of, ‘I can’t believe you’ve even asked me that question’.
JI: Well, Anita, I did have a load of Nikon equipment around my neck. So for me, it was pretty obvious. Although I have to say that I was actually blagging my way as a professional photographer. Because I was just there to test out my new camera equipment. But it seemed, you know, it was a great place to go. And you know, I’d heard that Courtney Pine was going to be on the bill. And, you know, in Gary’s group, Jazz Jamaica, was there as well.
GC: She says that now, you didn’t even know who it was then.
JI: Well no, I didn’t know who it was, you know, it was an opportunity for me to get out and about and test my equipment. But once I saw the groups and everything and heard the music, I mean, I was completely inspired. And then Gary took me along to his jam sessions at the Jazz Cafe. And I was introduced to a whole world of fantastic young black musicians, who I knew nothing about, you know, there was no visibility of these young musicians. And I couldn’t understand why. And essentially, they needed some help to make them visible. So I think Gary and I started working together and eventually became life and business partners. But the idea really was to not only get more black musicians, and then later, more women, but it was to make sure that they were getting access to the best learning and professional opportunities that jazz and the wider industry had to offer. And also, you know, sort of levelling the playing field for everybody, you know, because it clearly wasn’t level back then. I mean, it’s still not particularly level now, but it’s better. So Tomorrow’s Warriors really set about opening up those opportunities and making sure that those with talent, whether or not they had the money or other resources, had an opportunity to develop that talent, to nurture their talent, and then find a pathway into the industry and then build sustainable, successful careers in music.
GC: That was the plan. To put it in a much simpler way, we just really wanted to … we love this music, and we love the culture around it and we wanted to diversify it, you know, make it open for everybody. Increase the audiences, tell the whole world about this great art form.
AH: And thank goodness for organisations like yours, and you’ve been doing amazing work for over 30 years now, and it’s your 30th birthday this year.
JI: This year, yes, my goodness.
AH: So when we, I just wanted to say that when we talk about jazz, as with any genre really, we often have particular views that shape our own experiences and often they’re a little bit narrow. And actually looking on your website I can see that you know, what you mean by jazz in Tomorrow’s Warriors is really quite broad. So I wonder if you could just tell me a little bit about the work of Tomorrow’s Warriors, what you actually do, and also what sort of areas, what sort of genres of music you cover?
JI: Well, I suppose, in the broader sense, it’s about young musicians who love music and want to learn about the music and participate, come together, you know, into this wider community really, and learn jazz together. But it’s not just a learning programme, it is about finding a way to, finding the pathway into the music industry. And we take them, we say ‘from the cradle to the stage’, really. So you know, they come to us aged around 11. Some can start later on in the programme, it’s very flexible, but you can start, you know, from 11 years old, and carry on through all the way to the professional, and there is a definite pathway there. But it’s also about becoming part of a community. I mean, that community is really important at Tomorrow’s Warriors. You know, it’s not just about turning up, doing the session and going away. It’s about turning up, and then supporting your fellow musicians, learning about the music, contributing to the music, helping to develop the music, and then supporting each other as you become, as you grow, and you become professional. And then you then start to employ other musicians and grow that community, building audiences. It’s not, as I say, it’s not just about learning, it is about growing in that community.
GC: Yeah, it’s about engagement with your peers of a similar age. I mean, the one thing that we could theorise how we’ve done it, why we’ve done it. We’ve done it on the job on the day, and now looked back and put all of the technical reasons why it happened. But the real reasons why it happened, it comes from the heart. It comes from love. That’s where it comes from. And then each week, you have a different reason why you want to do that. But because the basics are there, and the one thing that we don’t talk about, what we know, is what makes Tomorrow’s Warriors different is that we allow magic to flow. You see, once you stop magic flying, then you’re not getting the art. What you’re getting, you’re getting the feelings, or the beliefs of the teachers or the beliefs of the curriculum, because the magic is gone. What I particularly did, in the basement of the South Bank and The Spice of Life, was allow whatever experience I had, I would only use it when I felt it was needed. Otherwise, I was an observer or a participant. I wanted to hear what Nathaniel Cross or Nathaniel Facey could bring into that room to speak to people that were closer to them in age that would enthuse them, would get them. You know, it’s not what I say, because if I go in the room as somebody older than their father, that’s 50% of a battle they have already. That’s your difference and who you represent. That’s a problem. When you go to a youth club, you know, to play football, netball, the last person you want to see there is your parents. And that’s how you develop. That’s how we used to develop boxing skills. You’d go into a room with other youngsters who wanted to do it. And that’s how I treated passing on education. The idea that we’re an education programme still gripes me because we’re a facilitator. You know, we work with other education bodies.
AH: I love that.
GC: And the idea that I would classify myself as a teacher, for somebody who’s already studying with Simon Purcell at Trinity, is confusion. I’m teaching him, Simon Purcell’s teaching him. That’s not it. We’re all contributing to the development of a young artist, very much like the African [village] – parents have the children, the whole village grows the children, you know.
JI: Yeah, it takes a village.
GC: And in art, that’s what’s needed. Like a talented family, talented father or mother, regardless of how talented they are, could not turn their child into a musician, without the framework for that child to go to classes with other youth bands and so on and so forth to develop those skills.
JI: Yeah, the musicians have described Tomorrow’s Warriors as like a youth club for musicians.
GC: Yeah, I’ve said that.
JI: So it’s where, you know, very often Gary would just sort of tell us, ‘Come along to the Violet Room, which is in the basement at the Southbank. Just come, you know, and hang out. And then he’s, you know, it wasn’t all about, it wasn’t formal teaching of any description, really. And I often think of it as …
GC: It’s jazz teaching.
JI: Yes, it’s jazz.
GC: I call them jams. I taught in the same way that I learned from George Lee and Lauro, you know I learnt that from African musicians, you learn on the job. If you’ve got it wrong this week, you better get it right next week. Come next weekend, if you still haven’t learnt that dominant scale, all right, we’re gonna get on you.
AH: Yeah, so the the idea of jazz education, it just has so many similarities to the kind of inclusive music movement that’s happening, really that what has been happening for years, it’s sort of spreading more through formal education in the UK, thanks to initiatives like the Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England, and it’s something about young people’s creativity, central, informal learning. The teachers aren’t teachers, they’re simply facilitators, well not simply but they are facilitators, which is really crucial, isn’t it to that, that kind of bringing out a young person’s creativity rather than forcing in creativity?
JI: Very often, you’ve got a saying where it’s allowing the young people to discover the magic of jazz for themselves. So we just create the conditions and the environment for it.
GC: And we guide them and help them in lessons. Or we find …
JI: We help lead them to that discovery …
GC: And we bring in masterclasses if we realise that something’s missing, but we must allow them to discover the magic. Also, my teacher, my bass teacher, was the first, he started the first jazz course in Britain. So some of his thinking has come through as well. I also studied with John Stevens, I used to play with John Stevens.
GC: I used to fight with John Stevens. But that whole approach, that new approach to teaching, which didn’t come from the Music Board, or something like that. It comes from the jazz way of thinking. Yeah, it was around me anyway, you know.
AH: Can you explain for people listening who might not know who John Stevens is?
GC: John Stevens was a jazz drummer in the 1960s. You know, he was also an avant garde jazz drummer and he could play any style of jazz. He played in, I think he played with John Martyn, he played in some rock groups in the 1960s as well. But then he went on to be part of Community Music, which had a big effect on how education, music education has developed in the country over the last – they must be about 40-years-old.
AH: Absolutely. So that’s Community Music, it’s the organisation based in London, but it’s kind of spawned so many other organisations, hasn’t it?
GC: I used to play with John, in one of his more progressive groups. And I learned a lot from being around him. There are people in the jazz world that want to change things. And they’ve tried in the past, and they are the ones that are showing us how it’s done. Not deliberately saying, this is how it’s done. But you can just look at their experiences and what they’ve put in, in the past as well and see what has worked and what has failed. So working with John was important as well for me.
AH: Yeah, that’s amazing. I can see how that’s informed the way you approach what you do.
GC: Every now and again, I get these sad feelings, because could you imagine if that man was still alive? What he could add to what we’ve done already, in terms of just being there, just coming down to a gig and hanging out with the youngsters.
AH: Oh, wow, that would be amazing.
GC: You know, he came from very similar backgrounds to a lot of those young kids. I think he was a South Londoner. So you know, he spoke the language.
AH: Well, that’s fantastic to know you work with him. At the moment, currently with Tomorrow’s Warriors, can you sort of give me an idea of how a young person sort of progresses, what you do, what’s on offer? I know you do ensembles, I know you do work in schools, I know you do artist development and give performance opportunities. So can you just, in a nutshell, kind of describe what the offer is for young people.
JI: You’ve kind of summarised it already [Laughs]. So they can come in, as I say from the age of 11. Officially, it’s 11 to 25. Although we do flex around that, depending on the ability of the musicians, certainly at the younger end, and you know the needs of musicians as they progress through the programme, and as they start out in their early careers. So we have, under normal circumstances, we’d be at the Southbank Centre every week, all over the weekend, and some classes during the week, where they can come. It’s a two or three hour session with a music leader who invariably will be somebody who has developed themselves through the Tomorrow’s Warriors programme, and will be a practicing musician. And they’ll learn all kinds of things about jazz, they’ll get to learn to improvise, they’ll learn about the four different forms, and they’ll get to play together, you know, and that’s, I suppose, we’re the starter of that, you know, building that community within their own class group, session group. That’s where it all starts. So beyond that, we then have our flagship ensembles, where young people are invited to join one of our ensembles, and those will be youngsters who are getting access to plenty of performance opportunities, although all the youngsters have opportunities to play. And then as they progress, they’ll then move up. You know, you’ll start in say the Junior Warriors and then progress to the Youth Development Group. And then the Advanced Development Group. And we have a Junior Band, we’ve got the Youth Ensemble, we’ve got a soon come Youth Orchestra. We also have a special session for girls and young women, so it’s the female collective. And we set that up when we started at the Southbank, really, because we had a number of female musicians who were coming along, and as you’ll know, it can be quite daunting playing with a room of guys, or a stage full of guys, all that testosterone flying about. And so we felt we needed a session that was just for the girls where they could support each other, they can build their chops up, build up their confidence, and then go back into those sessions where they can then hold their own, because technically, they’re just as good. And so in many cases, it was just a matter of building their confidence. So that’s been really successful, and out of that you’ve had groups like Neirja, for example, and Kokoroko, and female-led ensembles coming out of that. I think that’s about it really, isn’t it? I mean, we do, we do all kinds of performances, whether it’s from a cafe or bar, or a church or community centre, all the way up to main stages, you know, Glastonbury, or Royal Festival Hall or any of those. I suppose the objective is to give them as wide an experience, as broad an experience as possible, to equip them so that they’re ready when they enter the profession. They’re also very much encouraged to compose, to create their own music and to share that music.
GC: Not by me.
AH: That’s central isn’t it, to jazz, that creation of their own music?
JI: Well, to express themselves.
GC: Well, yeah, it is, but no, I don’t see it as central to jazz music at all. It’s central if you want to be a jazz leader, or a jazz composer. But what’s really central to jazz music is that one thing that nobody in today’s present music or the last 50 years really want to do, which is to play the standards. And, okay, that meets the standards. Those are the things that make you become a jazz musician, learning to play Frank Sinatra songs, and interpret it in your own way. That’s how you become a jazz musician. Because those principles that run through those songs are plentiful, you know, practically every song has it. Whereas when you’re composing yourself, you can do what you like.
JI: It’s not composing without having the foundation. So we try and sort of embed, you know …
GC: The basic skills that are needed. So the basic skills to play something like jazz, maybe that you have to learn how to play your eighths properly. There could be 32 bars of eighths that are required. You’re not going to get it from composing your own music.
AH: Yeah, I suppose maybe I’m confusing composing with actually improvising and then taking it on further so yeah, I’m probably not using my definitions properly.
GC: Improvising is spontaneous composing on the spot. And there are many great things you can learn from it. But those are not the things that you’re going to use to educate somebody else. Because if it’s made up on the spot, that’s what it is, you know, that’s its real value. If you use some of the techniques that people have developed using Charlie Parker’s techniques, then that can be passed on to any generation, any group of people, it can be explained.
AH: Yeah. So you do a lot of work in London, and you’ve done work outside London a fair bit, I know you’ve worked with Luton music hub. I’m just sort of interested to hear a bit about the work you’ve done nationally. And also, a lot of the people who listen, are people sort of based all over the UK, and just sort of interested to know if you are open for partnerships and things like that, and for going to other places in the UK to work with young people.
JI: Oh, definitely. We have what we call the Tomorrow’s Warriors partnership network. And that’s a range of different partners from music hubs, to promoters, to venues, schools and community groups. And over the past few years, we’ve been doing what we call the Ticket Programme, which is we have the jazz tickets some years ago that celebrated, was it five or six jazz icons who were celebrating their centenary? When we went to I think it was eight or nine cities, and worked with six schools in each city, where we were teaching them, you know, tunes by a jazz icon, which they then got to perform as the opening set to our Nu Civilization Orchestra, which is our professional orchestra. So they got to engage with our music leaders, get a taste of the kind of, I say teaching, but use that very softly. The worry is pedagogy, I suppose. And, yeah, so it was including young people from the local area. And we also focused on schools that had a higher proportion of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, or that had high proportions of black kids to make sure that we were reaching the people that we were set up to support. So that was really important to us. And then we also did the Reggae Ticket, so that was Jazz Jamaica All Stars, which is Gary’s professional ensemble. So that’s a 22 to 35 piece, ska and reggae and jazz orchestra …
GC: Plus local choir.
JI: Yeah, and so we were building local choirs. So we had everything from like 20 or 30 people up to 240 singers. And we also worked with local community groups. So they had their amateur ensembles, who would then learn some of the repertoire, and then they would open for Jazz Jamaica All Stars in, you know, the concert halls in their area. So it’s a great way to bring together different stakeholders in each of the cities, you know. Yeah, so we have an intergenerational experience.
GC: Because we, I suppose it always leads back to what we believe in the beginning, that art will tame the beast in man. That’s what we’re concerned with, you know, as spreading as much art out there as possible. So we do lots of stuff with community groups in Bristol, Birmingham, and engage with them on projects that they’re involved in and projects we’re involved in. And it goes beyond that, because in those cities, there may be an education department that may get involved as well.
AH: It’s brilliant. And are you still doing that?
JI: Oh, yeah.
GC: It’s all of Janine’s great planning that has allowed this to happen. But at the root of it all, is love.
AH: Absolutely. That comes through all of your videos and the response from the audience, the young people that you’ve worked with on that Jazz Ticket programme, and then the parents as well at the end of the performance, it’s just lovely. And that’s why I was really excited to see that.
GC: That is the best part.
JI: It really is the best part when you see these young people, just joyful and joyous, you know, at having taken part in this and being part of it and felt that sense of community with their peers, you know, and also seeing parents transformed, you know, lots of lovely comments that you hear from the parents afterwards, like, you know, oh, I never thought about going to a jazz concert. But now, I’m going to go to jazz concerts all the time.
AH: Yes, I love that. That was brilliant that one woman who said she’s going to be a jazz fan now.
JI: Yeah, and when you see the kids were so shy at the beginning of the session, you know, and then you see them soloing on the main stage. And they come away thinking, ‘Wow, I’m so proud of myself’, you know, like, it just instills such confidence in them, which will, it’s a lifelong thing, you know, that is going to stay with them forever. And it will boost their confidence when they get to do other things that they feel are a challenge. So it’s really such a transformational thing, you know.
AH: One of the young women was talking about improvisation. And I know that there’s, you know, a lot of young musicians don’t get the chance to do that. And it’s really scary for them, isn’t it?
JI: Yes, terrifying [Laughs].
AH: Yeah, and she clearly was amazed that she’d found that skill in herself.
GC: It takes time anyway. By having the sessions at the Southbank, you don’t have to pay to come in. I think that’s an important aspect.
JI: That’s so important.
AH: Okay, brilliant, I didn’t realise that.
GC: Yeah, nobody has to pay. Well, if they had to pay then we’d have very few other working class kids, that we really need to make the whole community work because that’s what it is. We’ve got people from Eton, right down to in the ghetto, right. That’s what makes the whole family work. When we’re working together in the room, everyone’s equal. Because the music is the only superior thing in the room at that moment. I generally say to people that you don’t know anything until you come into this room, and you listen to Charlie Parker. And then you can prove to me that you can actually do this process. I’m not saying you have to go on stage and play this process. But you have to show me that you can play all your eighth notes, you can play all your, your broken chords, and make music with it. And you can just play the blues and make people happy.
JI: And it doesn’t matter where you come from. It’s not about where you come from.
GC: It’s a process. It’s a scientific process. Because it comes from the black community of America, nobody’s ever actually said, it’s actually a scientific process involved here. You know, you’re having to crunch numbers, you’re having to crunch harmony, you’ve been given a five or six note chord. And somehow you’ve got to find a line that goes through it, that members in the audience won’t say he doesn’t know what he’s doing.
AH: Yeah, it’s, it’s an amazing skill.
GC: That’s the amazing skill. Well, just go and listen to Oscar Peterson, this is not a joke.
AH: What do you think about the sort of presence of opportunities in jazz for young people sort of across the UK generally, in music education? Do you think it’s changed since you started? Do you think it’s, it’s better? And also routes from school into industry for jazz musicians, or are there still barriers there?
JI: I think it’s definitely better than it used to be.
GC: Yeah, there’s an economy there now. Obviously, once there’s an economy, then …
JI: More people come to it.
GC: Will people want to invest in it? That’s the key. Of course, there’s barriers, because it’s an art music. So there’s bound to be barriers, you know.
JI: I think that the obvious barrier still exists. The first is like money. I mean, it costs a lot to produce a musician. And while there are grants and things like that, it’s not easy. And I think just having to apply for a grant can be a barrier for some people. And that’s why we insist on making it completely free. There’s no means testing or anything, you know, and I’m sure there are, there will be people on our program, who can afford to pay. I mean, we try and convert them into donors, hopefully. But it’s really important that you remove those barriers, and money is a big one, and particularly after COVID it’s gonna be even bigger, because there’s going to be less money about for art in schools, and, you know, for free music lessons and things like that.
GC: It’s gonna be the parents who are struggling.
JI: Yeah, and parents who are struggling, you know. I mean, I really feel for any parent that is having to do more than one job just to stay afloat, and then you’re asking them to pay for music lessons, it’s like, it’s not gonna happen. Keeping food on the table and keeping a roof over their head is what’s important at that moment. And yet, you may have a child that’s got a serious talent, why should they face barriers like that?
AH: Young people can come through your programme completely without having to have paid anything?
JI: Yeah, it’s completely free. You can have up to, I think it’s up to 14 or 15 years of free jazz education on our programme. You know, if you start at 11, and you keep going until you’re 25. As I say, we still got beyond 25, because we still work with musicians, as professional artists, as well. And we’ve got our Nu Civilization Orchestra, which is really a great pathway for some of these musicians. But it’s also a professional orchestra that serves to inspire the younger generation, and those coming after them.
AH: Yeah, and it’s so important to see that, isn’t it?
JI: You know, it’s creating those role models, you’ve got to. You can’t be it if you can’t see it. Our Nu Civilization Orchestra really embodies what Tomorrow’s Warriors is about when it comes to inclusion and diversity. You know, we make sure we’ve got a 50/50 balance as far as possible in terms of male and female musicians. And also in terms of ethnicity as well. We want to make sure that we’re seen to be what we say we are.
GC: Yeah, can I jump in there? I think Janine’s over-exaggerating that point. We don’t have to make sure. That’s how it’s happened.
JI: That’s how it works.
GC: The reason why that girl is the lead trumpeter in the band is because she’s the best. Ain’t got nothing to do with she’s a girl, or she’s whatever. She was suggested to me by the best, and he said, ‘Well, I can’t do the gig, this is the best student I’ve ever had’. And I suppose we weren’t surprised. We were gladly happy when we saw Rebecca come. And then when we heard her play, I don’t think we’ve ever ‘phoned Neil back again. You’ve got to go and get a job.
JI: I suppose the point we’re making really is that we don’t just say we do diversity.
GC: We do it.
JI: I mean, we do it, we just do it. And when people ask about, can you teach us how to be diverse, you can’t, you just have to be it. And that comes from who you are.
GC: And who you trust.
JI: And who you wanna be really.
GC: We trust also some of those people that we’ve chosen, because some of them were young. Peter Edwards, standing in front of an orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall. When we met him, we didn’t even know he was a musician. He was even frightened to tell me he was a musician. And there he was, what was it, 10 years after, was it?
JI: No, more than that. And you know, there he was a couple of years ago, in front, leading an orchestra at the proms in the Royal Albert Hall.
GC: It wasn’t on a community-based reason why he’d done it, he’d done it based on the fact that he is one of the best in the country. Now, you know, …
JI: He’s got the skills. And I think if we can be arming these young people with those skills, then they can access those opportunities. They can get there, they can be successful. They can be the musicians they want to be. I suppose it’s about facilitating them to achieve their creative ambition, their artistic ambitions.
GC: And also it’s about them, but it’s also about what we want to see. Because there are times where we needed as Janine said, we needed a publishing company. Alright, we’ll start one. Or if we need whatever, we’ll start one. It was the same with, you know, we needed a conductor who could conduct jazz and classical music. So we helped build one. We found somebody that had that, that quality, and we’ve spent time and supported him. That’s how it’s done. Or, that’s how we’ve done it. I don’t know whether others can.
JI: I suppose it’s being responsive to the musicians needs. You know, and whatever step was needed, you know, we needed to take next to move the young person up to the next level. We tried to put in, you know, that next rung in the ladder. If it wasn’t there already, we tried to create the rung.
GC: And we’ve never felt anything we’ve done hasn’t fit in with what really we wanted to achieve. We’ve kept our integrity and our respect.
JI: Yeah. And it’s authentic.
GC: It’s authentic.
AH: It’s authentic, that was the word on the tip of my tongue. Absolutely. Yeah.
JI: I mean, it does make me laugh, sometimes, you know. We’re a national portfolio organisation of the Arts Council and, you know, you have to show that you’ve got all these policies and procedures and whatever in place. And of course, we do, you know, as an organisation, we have to, but the fact that we have to create a diversity and inclusion policy is kind of alien because it’s like, but doesn’t everybody, isn’t this just natural? Isn’t this just what you do? But actually, it’s not and that’s the shame and as long as that’s the case, then there will always be a place for organisations like Tomorrow’s Warriors. I mean, really, the aim must be that we don’t need to exist. But right now, we do still need to.
GC: Yeah. It’s not as scary as how it sounds, Anita. Because we do other things of a high level too. That, you know, as Jenny mentioned, the Nu Civilization Orchestra. That will have a role in the cultural life of Europe, we hope forever. To show a band, which three out of four section leaders are female. There’s not many bands that can actually have that, you know.
JI: And that’s the thing too. It’s not just about, you know, a woman there …
GC: Or a black person.
JI: Or a black person …
GC: It’s the right person.
JI: They need to be able to do the job, you know. So it is a meritocracy, still. But sometimes we have to make choices, and we always have to be true to our charitable objectives and, you know, to why we set it up in the first place, to our ethos.
AH: Yeah, and that sort of shines through everything that I’ve read about you, and any videos that I’ve watched, your sort of strong values and the authenticity of the organisation just absolutely shines through. So, I mean you’ve achieved absolutely loads in 30 years, and it is your anniversary this year, what do you want to achieve next? I suppose what change would you like to see in the next, I don’t know, few years. I won’t say 30 years because that would be so, woah!
JI: My first one would be, I’d like to see Tomorrow’s Warriors and similar organisations better resourced. You know, we deliver an awful lot, and we do an awful lot on very little. But it’s getting harder, you know. I think there are more young people who are just craving the opportunity to learn music. We’ve got a waiting list of more than a hundred people at the moment. Which is kind of crazy, and we need to find a way to be able to support those young people. So I would like to be able to grow our programme, definitely, and I think I’d also like to see even more opportunities for performances and getting around the country as well, you know, about sharing, about building audiences. I definitely want to build the audience for jazz. Its grown exponentially, especially over the last few years with the success of our alumni. I think more opportunities for young people to see music as a career path, as a sustainable career. Yeah, what would you say Gary?
GC: I would say for me, because I’m totally confident over how you’re handling the Tomorrow’s Warriors, that it will carry on until you stop. But it’s more on the artistic side, the high-level artistic side. For me, if the Nu Civilization Orchestra will live after us, and its principles, we hope, will filter through to other orchestras, in order to see the benefits of using and following our techniques. And hopefully those benefits will be, more female section leaders, more cross-collaborations between jazz musicians and classical musicians. That’s another thing we’ve brought into that orchestra.
AH: Mmm, interesting.
JI: And cross-artforms as well.
GC: And cross-artforms as well. We work with Clod Ensemble. So it all leads back to where we started, you know. It’s about love, but it’s also about the art, more than religion, more than politics is going to solve man’s problems. Art is going to tame the beast in man, somehow.
AH: That’s an amazing note to end on, I think. And I’m really sorry we have to end because I’d really love to talk to you more – I’ve got so many more questions. It’s been such a pleasure talking to you both because I’ve heard so much about you before and it’s amazing to hear that it’s your thirtieth year and more power to you. May you carry on for many, many more years and produce many more wonderful musicians because they’re all …
GC: It’s great if you start young!
AH: Yeah, yes, of course, you must have done! [Laughs] You must have been child educators. Thank you so much for coming on, it’s been lovely to meet you.
JI: Thank you Anita, it’s been good to meet you too. Take care now.