A day of improvisation at Leeds Conservatoire

This March saw the first Awards day of 2024!  Young musicians on our Awards programme met at Leeds Conservatoire for a day of improvisation and creative music making. Across three workshops they were introduced to contrasting approaches to improvising music across different genres including jazz, folk and Indian classical!  

Improvisation is the term for creating music on the spot and a way of responding to other people playing in a group, usually reflecting the style of music that is being performed. Often a performer will improvise around the melodies that appear in a song or a piece of music, perhaps expanding or varying them slightly. For some of our young musicians this was their first time learning and testing out improvisation techniques – which can be daunting if you’ve not done it before! 

We asked some of the participants what they got from the day. 

“Getting more comfortable with playing while improvising in front of people. I needed to step out of my comfort zone which I did manage to in the end.’ 

“I really enjoyed the whole day. It was really interesting to learn about three different styles of improvisation. It was also lovely to be able to have a Q and A session with the professional musicians.’ 

Workshops were led by fantastic professional musicians from each of the different genres, including; Executive Artistic Director of the National Youth Jazz Collective Issie Barratt, folk musician Beth Gifford and virtuoso sitarist Jasdeep Singh Degun. We were also joined by tutors from the Conservatoire and some of our brilliant Awards Alumni.  

During the day the young musicians had the chance to ask the professionals anything they’d like to know about improvisation, performing and the music profession in our live panel chat. The panel discussion was also live streamed so that musicians who couldn’t attend the event in person could join in.  

‘What a fab Sunday! LOVED it!
Issie Barratt, Executive Artistic Director of the National Youth Jazz Collective 

Participants went home enthused about the endless possibilities of improvisation and keen to continue their learning about the three genres they encountered, with one parent sharing: 

‘Both of our girls really enjoyed it, many thanks! The folk session went down particularly well I think, and they learned a lot about Indian classical music that was previously unfamiliar and were inspired to come home and research more jazz theory, so all great!’ 

Young Sounds would like to express a huge thank you to the partners that helped make the day so successful. To be able to give these young people such brilliant experiences makes all the difference to their music making and progression – so thank you to: 

Leeds Conservatoire 
Jasdeep Degun Singh 
National Youth Jazz Collective 
Beth Gifford 

If you are, or if you know, a young musician, aged 5-17, with bags of musical potential who could benefit from financial support and musical opportunities like this, Young Sounds UK could help!  Visit youngsounds.org.uk/awards to find out more.   

In their words

“I think the improvisation day was really great! I enjoyed the three very culturally diverse genres of music all sharing improvisation.” Cole 

The Indian classical improvisation was spectacular and the participation aspect of it was good as well – that was a flavour of improvisation I hadn’t experienced ever before. The jazz improvisation was a deeper delve into what I already knew which I found interesting with changing the scale into different modes. The folk to me was a more interactive type of jazz, which I enjoyed as well” Kayiza 

“The day was extremely fun and fast paced. I loved how we learnt about different improvisation techniques as well as different styles of music. I loved making connections with other young musicians.” Fennrin 

“It was very interesting and a lot of fun. I never usually have opportunities to do workshops like this so I was excited to take part. I’ve remembered some concepts on improvisation that I’ll now be using from now on.” Anon 

“I really enjoyed the improvisation day and it was great meeting like-minded people and exploring different styles of music in more detail. I especially enjoyed the Indian classical workshop, as I had not previously learned the wonderful music system of this genre and found it a fabulous new discovery that I now want to know more about! I have new desire to learn how to play sitar! The folk workshop was also super-fun, and Beth and Shinara were so friendly – you felt comfortable enough to really enjoy yourself and get the most out of the session.” Star 

“I really enjoyed getting to know other musicians and learning about different music genres I never really thought of playing before and having more opportunities to improvise in front of other people. From now on, I won’t feel so afraid to be more open about my thoughts and will try to share my improvised creations with others without feeling afraid.” Eleanor 


Share this post