The WA Youth Jazz Orchestra Northern Corridor (NC) Band assists in the development of young musicians who have an interest in playing big band jazz. This ensemble also focuses on the growth of its members through developing deeper musical understanding, leadership, and camaraderie.

Currently, the band is comprised of students from 12 different schools across Perth and Peel region, with students travelling from Mandurah to Duncraig to take part in the weekly rehearsals.

The band is directed by Jess Herbert who’s been involved with WAYJO for 14 years! She originally started out as a member of the St John of God Health Care Tuesday Night Orchestra (TNO) or Big Band Orchestra as it was previously called, and played baritone sax in the band from 2009-2011. She then started working with WAYJO in their administration team from 2014 to 2021 and now holds her dream position as a Musical Director!

Jess says being a part of WAYJO is so much more than you might think. “It’s about community, opportunity and above all, a love of big band jazz. I count myself very lucky to have been involved with this organisation for so many years,” she says.

Ahead of their show coming up at The Ellington Jazz Club this weekend, Jess fills us in all things NC.

How long have you been music director of NC?
Jess Herbert: I have been the MD since August of 2022.

Tell us how the NC band has developed this year
JH: The band have improved exponentially over the course of the last year and a half. The level of repertoire they are performing, their musicianship both as individuals and as an ensemble and their dedication to the ensemble has just been so inspiring to watch. It’s really important in big band jazz to develop leadership within the ensemble as well as musical camaraderie. Allowing my students to have artistic license, encouraging their enthusiasm and facilitating musical discussion has allowed the group to really grow, and lean into their understanding of what it means to play big band jazz. It’s so much more than just turning up each week and reading the dots on the page. We’re seeing the students grow not just as musicians, but as leaders and it’s incredible to witness.

What’s the repertoire for this Sunday’s concert?
JH: We have a very diverse set of music for our audience this Sunday! We’re playing classic tunes from Basie and Ellington through to some original compositions by Perth based saxophonist and composer, Gemma Farrell. It’s going to be a power hour of big band music through the decades.

How will this concert differ from their previous ones this year?
JH: This is our first featured concert in a music venue. So far this year we have played at Joondalup Festival, the WA Schools Jazz Festival and with Dave Theak at St Stephens last month alongside the St Stephens Big Band and the MinterEllison Monday Night Orchestra, but we have never played our own standalone gig before! This is a landmark performance for the band.

Is the band excited to be playing at Perth’s most iconic jazz club?
JH: Absolutely! The Ellington Jazz Club, with its illustrious 15-year history, is renowned for hosting some of the finest jazz performances from across the globe. For these budding artists, the opportunity to showcase their skills at this iconic venue represents a milestone in their burgeoning careers. I’m not sure how we’re going to fit them all on the stage yet, but you’ll just have to come to the concert to see if we can pull it off!

What’s on the cards for NC next year?
I’m so passionate about this ensemble and fostering the next generation of jazz musicians. We start 2024 planning next month and I do have some exciting things planned but you’ll just have to watch this space for now…

WAYJO NC plays The Ellington
3pm, Sunday 29 October – The Ellington Jazz Club, Perth
Click here for tickets


Photos by David P Cox