Jazz Workshop Australia (JWA) is a music school in the Sydney suburb of St Leonards offering music lessons specializing in jazz and improvised music. We provide learning, community, and opportunity to keen students of any age, including children and young people, and musicians at any level. JWA is owned and operated by co-founders Saul Richardson and Karen Richards.
JWA programs include:
Jazz Combos (small ensembles)
These are small jazz bands of 3 to 8 members that rehearse once each week during school terms. Rehearsals include learning music and practicing tunes as well as structured coaching in jazz improvisation, style, and small ensemble techniques. Currently there are 10 of these groups, though more can be formed according to demand. They are grouped by jazz playing experience and improvising level and, approximately, by age. 8 of the combos are for children and young people; two of the combos are for adults.
The JWA little big band is a larger, big band-style ensemble for advanced musicians.
Private Music Lessons
JWA coordinates and provides private music lessons on a wide range of instruments to children, young people, and adults. Students can learn jazz or classical music.
Winter Jazz Camp in the July school holidays is for young musicians aged 8 – 17, It is a two or three day non-residential camp held onsite at JWA in St Leonards. Activities include jazz combo, big band, jam session, improvisation training, and general learning about jazz.
Summer Jazz Camp in the January school holidays is for young musicians aged 10 to 22. It is a five day residential camp held at Naamaroo Conference Centre in Chatswood West. Activities include big band, combos, improvisation training, elective options such as Latin jazz, choir, drumming for non-drummers, synthesizers, and introduction to jazz theory. It is capped at 105 students.
Programs & Schedule
|Jazz ensembles||•Combos (small groups)|
|Monday – Saturday;
Thursdays; Weekly rehearsals.
|Private music lessons||• Saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, guitar, bass, drums, piano, jazz improvisation, composition.||Monday – Saturday; Weekly or fortnightly lessons.|
|Winter jazz camp||• 2-3 days, day camp||July school holidays|
|Summer jazz camp||• 5 days, residential camp||January school holidays|
Syllabus, objectives, and outcomes of the regular JWA programs: a summary.
Students in the combos program work through a sequential program designed to cumulatively teach the requisite skills and concepts for jazz improvisation and build fluency. Students move through graded levels from initial simple key center-based horizontal improvisation through vertical chord-based playing though ‘changes’ and then into fluent and expressive shifts for effect between styles and approaches. Community, fun, inclusiveness, and participation are also emphasised, particularly for the younger students. Like many sporting programs, the further a student advances, the more focused and ‘serious’ they tend to become.
At the more advanced levels the focus also often includes preparation for HSC performance, university auditions, and early professional work.
Students taking private music lessons work through individualized programs based on their current needs, abilities, and objectives. Many students choose to work through AMEB examination grades, but most favour the non-examined individualized syllabus. As with the combos our general objective is cumulative knowledge and skills-building, but not at the expense of enjoyment, participation, and inclusion.
Values and the JWA approach
The JWA approach to jazz education emphasises cumulatively building knowledge and skills through a logical, sequential program designed to lead to fluent jazz improvisation and high-level performance skills.
Important values underpinning the JWA approach include that
- Every student is entitled to learn through equitable access to ‘powerful’ knowledge. We aim to achieve this through structured teaching that makes explicit the knowledge, techniques, skills, procedures, behaviours, and dispositions required to achieve success in musical performance;
- We do not ‘cherry pick’. Everybody is welcome to join our programs and work and learn as they will. We are not interested in just selecting the ‘best’ students and taking credit for their achievements. Instead, we strive to help every student achieve their best to the extent that they will. We aim to add ‘value’ to every student, regardless of their starting level; and
- Jazz is a way of playing and understanding music, not a body of work. We aim to train our jazz students in how to ‘do’ jazz, with all the skills, techniques, procedures, concepts, creativity, self-expression, and knowledge that entails.
JWA is based in The Jazz Workshop, a purpose-built venue housing band rehearsal rooms and soundproof teaching studios located in the suburb of St Leonards on the lower north shore of Sydney. It is very close to the train station and buses with ample parking on the street and a nearby council car park.
- JWA also sometimes arranges international and domestic music performance and study tours for our own in-house groups formed for a specific tour and can also to this on behalf of other schools and community bands.
- One-off short workshops, masterclasses, or camps
- School visits for teaching, conducting, outreach, or performances.
You can read a longer history of the JWA project here. Jazz Workshop Australia was founded in 2007 by jazz educator Saul Richardson and producer Karen Richards. It was set up to provide easy access to high-quality jazz education in a purpose-built venue for students in Sydney. Before JWA there was nothing like this for children, young people, or adult learners. JWA continues to thrive with many students of all ages, levels, and diverse backgrounds. Numerous alumni have even achieved success as professional jazz and commercial musicians.