After a rigorous interview and audition process, two new appointments have been made to replace Luke who leaves at the end of tern 2. We’re pleased and excited to welcome two fantastic musicians and educators to the program: Jay Byrnes to the position of MEP director, and Murray Jackson as conductor of the senior stage band.
Jay is a saxophonist who graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium in 2004. He is recently returned from a number of years studying and working overseas, including stints in London where he taught, lectured and performed, and Portugal, where he completed a Masters of Music degree while developing his career as an international soloist performing throughout Europe, South America and Australia. He then moved to Venezuela to take up the position of Head Saxophone Professor at Caracas Conservatorio as part of El Sistema, a world renowned national music education program in which some 250,000 children, most from poor socio-economic backgrounds, participate. Jay moved back to Sydney in January and took up instrumental teaching positions at Sydney Grammar School, Scots College and Erskineville Public, as well as continuing his work as Director of the Saxophone Academy of Sydney and as a performer. His experience as teacher and performer in so many different musical environments has given him a breadth of vision and knowledge from which the MEP will benefit enormously as it moves forward.
Jay will be conducting the two concert bands and the junior stage band as well as providing the MEP with overall direction and management. He’ll be formally introduced to the MEP community at the ensembles concert on June 28, though may well be spotted before at the MEP committee meeting on June 9 (all welcome). You can read more about Jay below, and we’ll post a photo as soon as we have one!
Randwick PS band director amd MEP clarinet and saxophone tutor l Murray Jackson will be familiar to many MEP students and parents already. Murray has a Graduate Diploma in Jazz Performance from ANU and is a regular performer with many of Australia’s best jazz performers at venues throughout NSW. He’s also President and Coordinator for the Jazzgroove Association, a cooperative of local musicians aimed at promoting original, improvised music. Murray’s current creative focus is the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, a contemporary jazz big band which can sometimes be heard be heard playing at the Sound Lounge at the Seymour Centre ( a venue highly recommended to MEP families – cheap entry, open to under-18s, great music). Murray’s appointment as conductor of the senior stage band reflects the MEP’s desire to emphasise the value to students of jazz performance skills such as improvisation.
We hope to post some thoughts from Murray here soon. In the meantime, here are some from Jay.
What’s it like to be back in Australia after so many years away?
It is fantastic to be back in Australia after five years of living overseas. I had the most amazing experiences overseas and learnt a lot whilst also enjoying myself, however there is nothing better than returning home. I have come back with a new energy to try to help build the Australian music community and feel excited to be able to impart the knowledge and experience that I have gained overseas to Australia’s young musicians.
What aspects of working with the MEP are going to be new?
I look forward to being able to work with a diverse level of musicians, from those who are only new to their musical careers to those who have been playing for sometime. I look forward to learning from my students as I find is always the case, but most importantly I look forward to being alongside people on their musical journey and assisting how I can. I’m also looking forward to working alongside such a supportive music program and parent committee as well as with such talented music tutors.
Is there anything in particular from your previous work experiences (eg at El Sistema) that you see as relevant to the MEP?
My experience at El Sistema in Venezuela has given me many experiences that I can see being very helpful back here in Australia and in particular at RBSC. As the head of the saxophone department, I learnt so much about what it is to be steering the ship so to speak and I have discovered that communication is key. This will help me greatly in maintaining and improving the direction of the bands, the level of the bands and students, the parents’ assistance and support and the school’s approach and attitude towards the band, particularly from the students.
What kind of music do you really like?
I enjoy listening to all genres of music – for me, the music I listen to is controlled by the mood I’m in and what I happen to be doing. I love listening to classical music from the baroque era, that of Bach and Vivaldi in particular. When I am feeling energised to work, this music pushes my motivation and helps me strive for the best. Any kind of jazz music is perfect for when I am preparing dinner or focusing on a task. Pop music is great in my car especially when I’m in traffic, it helps boost my spirits and calm my annoyance. World music, particularly that of Central and South America, is very close to my heart, sometimes making me want to dance or cry or laugh or sit calmly; it is the music that controls my feelings the most.