History of Jazz Workshop Australia

Jazz Workshop Australia (JWA) is an education company. We help people learn how to play jazz and to enjoy  positive experiences with this amazing art form so they can enjoy the music as musicians, audiences, composers, or supporters. It can be a wonderful gift that lasts a lifetime. Our approach is founded on an understanding that anybody, given the right training and opportunities can play jazz. We turn prevailing jazz rhetoric upside-down: “if you have to ask, then we’ll give you the answer”.

We provide high quality jazz and other music education services including ensembles, music tours, holiday camps, and serviced private tuition studios for music teachers. JWA is owned and operated by co-founders Saul Richardson and Karen Richards. Saul and Karen started working together when Karen’s sons attended North Sydney Boys’ High School where Saul led the jazz program. Their first collaborations were on international big band tours for the school band, on fundraising for the bands, and local tours to events like the annual Merimbula Jazz Festival. In late 2006 the high school’s policy toward instrumental music lessons changed, meaning Saul and several other teachers (who all happened to be jazz musicians) needed somewhere else in the area to teach their students. Instead of setting up a small studio just for guitar lessons, Karen helped Saul to lease and fit out a new venue dedicated to jazz education. They found office space in Atchison St, St Leonards and there built the first Jazz Workshop, and called the business Jazz Workshop Australia. The name Jazz Workshop wasn’t uncommon and had been used elsewhere for venues, events, album titles, and was a band name for Charles Mingus. Jazz Workshop ‘Australia’ made it clear which one this was.

JWA was established in St Leonards in 2007 and the first cohort of regular students came in January 2008. Prior to starting JWA Saul had been running a program of jazz combos (small bands) at North Sydney Boys’ HS. He had also been renting space from the school in holidays to run ‘Jazz Improvisation for Beginners’ workshops and combos for students from outside the school too. All of these now found a home at the new JWA studio, including a rehearsal space kitted out with jazz gear, like jazz drum kits and nice cymbals, decent amps, and so on. The room was also acoustically treated to make it suited to jazz bands.

After several years in the original venue JWA moved, but only to a higher level: up to the first floor of the same building. The first floor move provided more space and allowed us to design a new layout that gave more flexible rehearsal and breakout space and better soundproofing that enabled a big band to play in one room without disturbing music lessons in the next room.

After more than 10 years, JWA remains a special business and a unique venue. At JWA jazz comes first  – it isn’t an afterthought or an add-on, it is our speciality. Sure, there are some great teachers giving classical lessons in out studio, and the jazz doesn’t stop their excellent work at all. But for us it really is a home for jazz education. Our focus has always been on giving our students the opportunity to learn and excel at playing jazz. They and their music come first for us. If you are just discovering us for the first time, we hope you’ll consider getting involved in our programs. If you, or your child, want to learn to play jazz well, we’ll teach you.