KYJO’s origins can be traced way back to 1981, when it was launched by its first musical director, the late Randy Colville after a series of jazz workshops. Under the leadership of Geoff Miller, who directed the band for many years, KYJO subsequently reached new heights and started performing at high-profile events.
Thirtyfour years later it is still going strong with about 25 young players rehearsing fortnightly at Invicta Grammar School in Maidstone and continuing to run jazz workshops across the county. Current musical director Graham Mann and tutor Mike Austin are both former members who have returned to bring jazz to the next generation of young musicians.
Many members of KYJO have also played in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and many become professional musicians, play with the armed services or follow a career in music teaching. Many of them retain their links with KYJO, returning for guest performances and reunion concerts and parties - or as parents whose children are now members.
KYJO owes much of its success today to former manager, the late Mike Taylor. Mike's involvement with KYJO began when his daughter played tenor sax in the band many years ago. Like many parents, Mike continued to support the band after his daughter had moved on to university and stayed on to become its manager. As such, he was the driving force for over 15 years. KYJO appreciates the continuing support it receives from Mike's family.
KYJO is currently run by a committee of volunteers, mainly parents and friends, providing a wide range of skills to support the work of Graham Mann, music director and Mike Austin, assistant music director. Together they organise gigs and workshops to encourage young musicians to explore big band jazz and keep KYJO at the hub of youth jazz across the county.
Graham Mann, musical director
Graham Mann was born and bred in Kent. After cutting his ‘jazz teeth’ in KYJO as a teenager he studied trombone, piano and percussion at Colchester Institute and was already teaching drum kit, percussion and brass by the time he graduated in 1993. He is a musician of outstanding versatility and when he is not teaching plays in a range of different ensembles, from jazz quartets to classical orchestras and has performed at both Ronnie Scotts and The Jazz Café. He coaches and directs on many music courses and is currently percussion tutor for Kent Youth Wind Orchestra as well as musical director of KYJO.
Mike Austin, assistant musical director
Fellow KYJO ‘graduate’ Mike Austin studied saxophone and clarinet in Manchester at the prestigious Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). Here he was a member of the RNCM Big Band, leading to performances with guest artists including Wynton Marsalis, Bob Brookmeyer and Bobby Shew. In his final year, he was director of the RNCM Jazz Orchestra. As well as teaching, Mike now regularly performs with The Andy Maclean Band, The Pete Abbott Sound and is lead alto in the Andy Mawbey Main Event Orchestra.
Guest tutors have included:
KYJO has shared the stage with many other bands, including:
Ben Beddoes Big Band
Bobby Lamb Big band
University of London Union Big Band
Warwick University Big Band
Harbour Jazz Orchestra
Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra
National Youth Jazz Orchestra
Snowboy and the Latin Section
Big Band Jazz Paul Garein, Dunkerque
Brass & Fun, Germany
KYJO has performed at many major concert venues, jazz clubs and festivals, including:
Whitstable Oyster Festival
Faversham Hop Festival
Herne Bay Festival
Kent County Show
Tunbridge Wells Pantiles
Maidstone River Festival
Chatham Historic Dockyard
Thanet Jazz Festival
Pizza Express, Maidstone
Acacia Ballroom, Dartford
RAFA Club, Chatham
Brook Theatre, Chatham
Hazlitt Theatre, Maidstone
Stag Theatre, Sevenoaks