NYJO Interview: Mark Armstrong
Tell us about your history with NYJO and how you first got involved with them.
Originally I was a trumpet player in the Jazz Orchestra while I was studying music in London. I kept playing with the band from about 21 up to the cut-off age of 25 but the founding Music Director, Bill Ashton, asked me to stay on to direct the rehearsals and run some educational workshops. Following that, when Bill retired, I applied for the job of Music Director, which has grown to become Artistic and Music Director since that time as NYJO’s activities have evolved.
What music will you be performing at Haywards Heath on 16th October?
It will be a mixture of original compositions by me from my album ‘Coastbound’ and some jazz standards from my favourite jazz composers and performers, such as Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Count Basie.
You’ll be conducting/performing with a NYJO Sextet. How will that be different from the full orchestra?
Normally I direct the full orchestra and maybe play an occasional trumpet solo so it will be a real treat to be performing all the way through. In a small group much of the communication and direction is done by instinct rather than talking and gestures so by playing small group music in the authentic way it gives all of us a chance to refine and develop our jazz instincts.
NYJO recently moved to new premises, Woolwich Works in South East London. How are you finding it?
It’s a fantastic facility with lovely rehearsal spaces and for the first time for us the office and rehearsal space will all be in the same building. We were lucky to be able to get in while it was still under construction and it’s been amazing watching the facilities grow and get finished while we were rehearsing. The opening ceremony last week was a real celebration of the local community and the importance of the Arts in everyone’s lives so a real privilege to be able to take part in that too.
NYJO Sextet & Mark Armstrong play at the Haywards Heath Music Society, St Wilfrid’s Church, Church Road, Haywards Heath on Saturday 16th October, 2021.