Bromley Youth Music Trust Jazz School

LONDON Southbank Centre / The Clore Ballroom
Belvedere Road


In January 2017 Lora Dimitrova (head of Keyboard Dept at BYMT) approached Buster Birch about setting up a brand new Jazz School at Bromley Youth Music Trust (one of the UK's largest music hubs).

He started some improvisation classes for the children who were playing in the various bands and orchestras at the music centre.
This quickly grew into two regular improvisation groups, the "Blue Note" group for younger and less experienced improvisers and the "Birdland"  group for older and more experienced improvisers.

BYMT then took on assistant tutor Joe Boyle, a graduate of the Middlesex University jazz degree program, and in November of that year  won the prestigious Will Michael Award and honorary diploma for Jazz Education - A  national award recognising “outstanding commitment to jazz education” and “acknowledging the work of those field practitioners who are actually delivering jazz education and in many cases helping to combat the widespread jazz phobia among classroom music teachers and instrumental tutors.”

In the spring of 2018 they started the, now annual, jazz open day which included a visit from “2018 UK Jazz Ensemble of the year” ARQ (Alison Rayner Quintet). It featured an improvisation workshop and evening concert open to any local youngsters wanting to have a go at learning to play jazz and perform alongside other jazz  school members and the visiting professionals.

In the autumn of 2018 BYMT started an outreach programme visiting various local primary and secondary schools and offering "Introduction to Improvising" workshops to all instrumentalists. As well as recruiting for Jazz School these sessions help classroom teachers to implement jazz and improvisation in to their lessons.

Recently BYMT have developed this further and this year began offering CPD training sessions at the music centre for peripatetic and classroom music teachers. Keen to pass on some of the methods I have found work well with children they published a series of Apple Books including “How To Teach Improvisation - A simple method to get every student improvising” which includes all of the techniques and resources I use in the “Introduction to Improvisation” and CPD workshops at Jazz School.

This year BYMT expanded further and began a series of “Jazz Appreciation” classes for adult musicians and non musicians. We study key recordings and achievements of the great jazz musicians of the past and learn how their work shaped the overall evolution of jazz. Both improvisation workshops grew in size and they took on another tutor, the great jazz musician and educator Steve Buckley (a founder member of the multiple award winning UK jazz super group Loose Tubes).

This meant BYMT were able to run Jazz School every week, which has given a great boost to the students development. We also started a new junior jazz ensemble to give the young musicians more performance opportunities. This year Buster wrote a new series of books “Beginner Jazz Soloing” which are available in print worldwide on Amazon and are a core text for our Jazz School students. The current range is for saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, flute and violin and feature a simple six step method for anyone new to improvising.

Performing at the London Jazz Festival is a huge honour for the Jazz School and I’m sure it will an experience that the students will
remember for the rest of their lives
. (Buster Birch)