I often wondered what happened on Roehampton University campus in the absence of its regular term time students. Well, apart from serving as a fancy abode for the Italian student summer school and several Wimbledon hopefuls being trained in and around campus, the university is used as a jazz school for one intensive week.
Walking past Southlands Campus, my eyes noticed the food being laid out for the hungry tutors and pupils alike, both young and old. My ears pick up the sound of jazz music and I can’t help but tap my feet to the sound of the music. The setting changed over several times. They feature bands of tutors more so than students. The fact that the students play so well is a testimony to their tutor’s superior teaching skill.
I had to find a few answers to the questions lingering on my brain. Was the white guy with a beard who tuned my guitar a tutor? Can I have an interview?
Both questions have been answered. He was a tutor and I was referred to Ursula, the big musical genius brain behind the jazz school.
Outside the glassy citadel lit up by lights to pierce the night sky, Ursula and I got to talking.
“What it is essentially is a jazz summer course?
“I run jazz courses about four in a year. This is our fourth year here at Roehampton U. This year we had to combine courses. Usually we have one for under 25’s and one over 25’s. The reason why I had to put them together this year is because economic circumstances reduced my number. I think the recession has really hit hard. So this year, we’ve got the ‘oldies’ and of course the young ones,” she said.
‘Yeah, I noticed it was quite mixed in age range,” I said.
“Mmm. Normally it isn’t like that. Normally we have the younger ones in separate group. We teach people from all levels, whether they be beginners, jazz beginners, intermediate, improvers, graduates to post graduate level. They are incredibly talented. Some of them as young as 15,” Ursula said.
“I spoke to one of them, a young guy from Israel, “I said.
“Yeah, he’s 15 and there are others who are equally good. They’re amazing,” she replied.
“Yes, the others are quite epic,” I said.
“Quite a few of them have been coming to us. We’ve been pushing them through since they came to us. They were sort of ‘hmmm’, some of them beginners and they’ve just escalated. We’ve had an incredible success rate with our young group in that every single one of our students who has applied for any of the music colleges they all got in.
Every single one of them and music colleges are very known to turn down students. This year the academy had all of 5 places. We always get our students through. One of the students got a place. One of the reasons is because I have an amazing team of tutors. They are the best. They rank at the top ten for jazz players as well as jazz tutors. I get the very best. They call it the dream team. They are really amazing. And the idea is, this is not unlike other summer schools, it is a summer camp with jazz thrown in.
I always say when people call me up and say ‘I’m interested in your courses,’ one of the things I always say is ‘what are you looking for? If you are looking for a summer holiday where you can play a little jazz and have some fun then, I suggest you go somewhere else because we are very much about totally serious jazz education. There’s no point in coming to us if you aren’t serious about being educated in jazz. With the older people it’s not as stringent as that but they come here because they might have been playing for years but they still want to get better. They want to learn more and that’s the whole idea. So we have returnees, people who come again and old ones.
We put them through the mill and just teach them. Our goal is that at the end of the week they have a year’s worth of homework. So they can go away and work on that and come back a year later and they’ve worked on what they’re doing. We have two students here at music college who’ve said they learn more here in a week than they do in a year at music college,” Ursula explained.
“The reason for that is at music college, there is so much theory. They have contact hours but they don’t get it every day. This is incredibly intensive playing because this is what it is all about. They are taught and right there and then. They put it into practice,” she added.
Information on the jazz school:
JAZZ EDUCATTION AND EVENTS
Address- 56 Woodfield Rd. London. W5 1sH, UK
Email- [email protected]