Jazz trombonist Dennis Rollins put the big into big band when 50 young musicians took to the stage with him after just one day making music together.
The one-off ensemble of students from Harrogate and Leeds schools spent the day with Dennis at The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL), rehearsing a programme of music ranging from jazz numbers to Motown, Latin, blues and even Adele.
The students, aged 11-18, came from Harrogate Grammar School, Allerton Grange School, Abbey Grange C of E Academy and Garforth Academy as well as the host school, GSAL. Despite the limited time the musicians had to get to know one another, the band soon gelled and they gave an assured and energetic performance in the evening.
Dennis Rollins is an acclaimed performer, composer and educator, who developed his own musical talents with the Doncaster Youth Jazz Association. He encouraged the student band as an ensemble, working with them on the musical arrangements, improvised solos and sight-reading skills.
Dennis said: There’s something special about standing in front of a group of young musicians and seeing the massive potential for them to express themselves. It’s such a big moment when you see that spark and they realise they can do it and give to the audience.
It’s been fabulous tonight to witness it and see the joy in their faces. They’ve done the work, I’ve just encouraged them.
Saxophonists Madi Jones and Sam Brockett are Year 12 students at Harrogate Grammar School. Madi said: Before we went on, Dennis said to us you need to work together and have fun, show you love the music. He puts us at ease, treats us as proper musicians and it feels really professional.
Sam said: It’s been confidence building – being able to look at a piece of music and play it, have a go at solos – it’s fun and no one’s judging you.
Paul Dutton, head of music at Harrogate Grammar School, said: It’s an invaluable opportunity to work alongside someone very prominent in his field, with young people they don’t know and of equal talent. Preparing a performance in just one day gives them a focus on what they are doing.
Rachel Gillespie, teacher of music, Allerton Grange, said: It’s given our students a good experience of musicianship and a sense of belonging to something big. A couple of hours in, they were already asking if we can start a jazz band at school!