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Teaching job the high note of a busy career; Is it possible to make a living out of being a jazz musician? And if so, what is that life like? Very hectic indeed, Nick Dewhurst tells Peter Bacon.

Byline: Peter Bacon

YOU'LL have seen them around - the young men and women unpacking their instruments and setting up their music stands in a shopping centre or the foyer of a large building, in a village or school hall somewhere, in a pub or hotel, perhaps even in a proper concert hall.

They are dedicated to playing this strange and demanding music called jazz. But can it be anything more than a hobby? And what if they are more ambitious? What kind of career is there in jazz? Nick Dewhurst was born and bred in Lichfield - he still lives there - and provides some answers to those practical questions, as well as bringing musical delight to the Midlands and beyond. He also has some encouraging things to say about musical education. So how did he first develop an interest in music? "I think it would have been quite difficult for me not to get into playing music since both of my parents are musicians. I'm not sure how old I was when I first sat on dad's lap and he showed me some notes on the piano. I started learning the piano properly when I was about five, and then started doing percussion when I was seven.

"My parents would go out gigging on Saturdays and I wanted to go and play as well. I was handed a tambourine, and a couple of years later that progressed into a snare drum, and then some cymbals were added later."

While the demise of music in schools is often being worried over - and there is no doubt it is often overlooked in favour of the core school subjects - Nick's experience in the 1990s and 2000s was one of opportunities, starting with an offer of instrumental lessons at primary school. He chose the cornet.

"I had brilliant playing opportunities within school, both primary and secondary. At primary school one of the peripatetic staff ran a pop band which I enjoyed playing trumpet in. At secondary school I was spoilt really.

"One of the main reasons for going to my school was because of the music department. There was a big band which went out gigging! Netherstowe Big Band. There was also an orchestra and wind band. In sixth form I got to lead the junior band too, which was one of the first places I wrote arrangements for younger players, something I do rather a lot of now."

And then there were the after-school musical activities "Lichfield was also supported by the local music service, Staffordshire Performing Arts. I used to go twice a week, once on a Wednesday night to the jazz orchestra, and on the Saturday morning to the pop band.

"There were also the concerts put on by Lichfield Arts, and the Lichfield Real Ale Jazz and Blues Festival. I saw loads of great bands at those festivals."

Nick was naturally drawn to continuing down the musical path after he left school, but there were still some doubts it would make a full-time occupation.

"Towards the end of school we had to decide what to do at university, and for me it had to be music. I knew I wanted to play music later in life but I still wasn't 100 per cent sure about a career in music. I knew that if music didn't work out, with a degree I could probably do an apprenticeship in a company, or get on to a graduate scheme."

His degree course at Birmingham Conservatoire further expanded Nick's horizons. He had first formed his own band at the age of 13 - it was called Miniature Rebellion and he played guitar - and had been running a jazz combo called Funktional for a few years, but now he was playing in the National Jazz Youth and Midland Jazz Youth orchestras (NYJO and MYJO) as well as in Conservatoire bands.

"It must have been during my time at the Conservatoire I started to realise I would actually like to make a career out of music. I'd been gigging the whole time I was there, and had some private pupils in Lichfield.

"In my final year I started doing some casual work for the music service in Walsall, and when I graduated they offered me a job. I'm still there now and enjoy having an employed position as a music educator. I like having a day job - it forces me into a routine. It also allows me to do other musical activities without having to solely rely on them for income."

So what is a typical Nick Dewhurst working week? "I have a full schedule of teaching every week, mostly all sorts of brass instruments (trumpets, trombones, etc) and guitars (electric rock and pop, classical nylon and bass guitar too).

"I also lead a small school band on a Monday and a newly-formed jazz band on a Friday. Every fortnight I have Blast Off (the community jazz band Nick runs for Lichfield Arts) as well. I also assist in various ensembles every Tuesday at the music centre evening at Forest Arts Centre in Walsall.

"I have private pupils throughout the week" And a new development is that Nick now delivers a programme of national curriculum music at a primary school in Lichfield.

"That's been a fascinating development for me recently, and really challenged me. However, it's a lovely school. The kids are great and very musical too - almost two thirds of the entire school are learning an instrument. So I'm enjoying that despite feeling a bit out of my comfort zone sometimes. The reception class is so sweet but they don't want to know about minor sevenths and dominant sharp 11ths. I have to put my thinking cap on and go right back to the beginning of my musical education."

And on top of all that is Nick's own playing, composing, arranging and gig organising.

"There's often a Walsall Jazz Orchestra rehearsal or gig on a Monday night, and on a Wednesday since I'm still a member of MYJO I enjoy a rehearsal with them. And on Fridays and Saturdays and sometimes Sundays I'm often out and about gigging here or there."

Nick's bucket list is a long one indeed, and includes playing guitar in a blues-jazz crossover band, but his current projects are keeping him busy enough.

Among other things he is promoting a new monthly jazz night at the George IV pub in Lichfield. He and his band played the first one this week and he has Callum Roxborough's 11-piece swing band planned for February 17 and Dave Tandy's Yellowjackets project on March 16. There are dates in the diary for both Walsall Jazz Orchestra and MYJO, and Nick's Blast Off community band is playing in Lichfield Guildhall on March 9. The Nick Dewhurst band is playing at the Lichfield Blues and Jazz Festival, June 24-26.

To follow all of Nick's activities go to his website: nickdewhurst.wordpress.com PICK OF FEBRUARY JAZZ GIGS ? Ben Lee Quintet - Up and coming Birmingham-based guitarist leading his five-piece combo. Birmingham Jazz at The Red Lion, Jewellery Quarter, Bir-rmingham, 7.45pm, Friday, February 5, PS6. More at birminghamjazz.co.uk ? Dan Tepfer - The young New r York-based pianist gives Bach's Goldberg Variations a jazz inter-rpretation. Jazzlines on the Symphony Hall stage, Birmingham, 8pm, Wednesday, February 10, PS12. More at thsh.co.uk/ jazzlines ? Junior Blue Notes Half-Term Gig - Young, talented musicians with their fathers. Silvershine Jazz Club at Bear-rwood Corks Club, 9pm, Thursday, February 11, PS5. More at bearwoodjazz.co.uk ? Michael Janisch New York Octet - Top notch Londonbased bassist with his transatlantic band. JQ Jazz with Beat City at the Jewellers Arms, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, 9.30pm, Friday, February 12, PS10.

? GoGo Penguin - Piano trio from Manchester that appeals to Aphex Twin fans as well as the jazzers. Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, 7.30pm, Saturday, February 13, PS16.

More at warwickeartscentre.co.uk

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 21, 2016
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