KYJO’s origins can be traced way back to 1981, when it was launched by its first music 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.
It is still going strong today 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 Mike Austin is a former member who has returned to bring jazz to the next generation of young musicians.
Many members of KYJO have also played in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) and many have gone on to 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. During that time and until late last year, KYJO's MD was Graham Mann, who can take great credit for developing some fine musicians and blending them into a successful and thriving unit, assisted for much of that time by Mike Austin, who has succeeded Graham as MD.
KYJO is a registered charity (no. 1149477) currently run by its Trustees, through an operations committee comprising themselves, two other full members of the charity acting as Operations & Administration Managers and the Music Director.
The committee is assisted by volunteer parents, particularly at rehearsals, providing a wide range of skills to support the work of the Music Director.
Together, they organise rehearsals, concerts, gigs and workshops to encourage and develop young musicians who want to explore big band jazz and be part of keeping KYJO at the heart of youth jazz across the county.
John Levett, Chairman
John has been Chairman since 2016 following the death of Mike Taylor. John is passionate about music - jazz especially - and runs The Listening Room Music Agency which promotes gigs and concerts by a range of musicians at a number of venues. Aside from chairing meetings of KYJO's Trustees and Operating Committee, he is constantly on the look-out for performance opportunities for KYJO, working closely with MD Mike Austin.
Audrey Franks, Secretary
An Oxford scholar, graduating with a degree in maths, Audrey was, until recently, Director of Administration at Sevenoaks School, but now she's fully retired, she can devote more time to her interests in music - she's a saxophonist - crafting and bowls, alongside being KYJO's Child Protection Officer and Documents Librarian.
Ray Russell, Treasurer
Ray's a Chartered Secretary and Management Accountant with a keen interest in theatre and music. He runs two amateur bands of his own, trombonist in one, drums in the other. He's an avid supporter of developing young musicians and of keeping big band music alive and relevant for today's audiences and performers. He's also Chairman of Sevenoaks Summer Festival and Treasurer of Sevenoaks Bowling Club.
Paul Gripper, Schools Liaison
Paul is a retired teacher whose son - a tenor sax player - graduated from KYJO some years ago. Paul thinks KYJO is such a worthy cause, he's stayed involved and lends his experience as both a teacher and a parent, making him a much-valued Trustee.
Mike Austin, Music Director
Mike is himself a graduate of KYJO, returning some ten years ago, first as Assistant MD and now as numero uno MD. His instrument is saxophone and he's a member of several bands as well as being responsible for the development of KYJO's young players. Mike's son, Tom, is a drummer and recent KYJO graduate.
David Widdicombe, Operations Manager
Dave is a key member of the KYJO management team, along with wife Vicky providing support on many fronts - booking rehearsal rooms, storing instruments and equipment, as well as managing sound at KYJO gigs. He's a senior manager with Steinway pianos by day and enjoys playing drums in various jazz and funk bands when time allows.
Vicky Widdicombe, Administration Manager
Vicky has been helping with KYJO since 2019 when her and David's two children were in the band. Although their children left a few years ago, they are happy to continue volunteering. Vicky's previous life as a music administrator brings valuable skills to KYJO such as concert management and box office organisation. She also has an extensive collection of clothes pegs for outdoor events!
Derek Nash, Patron
British Jazz Award-winning bandleader, composer, arranger, record producer and engineer. One of the UK’s busiest jazz musicians, Derek is leader of six bands, each with its own unique sound and featuring some of the top jazz musicians in the UK today. He's been a full-time member of the Jools Holland Rhythm & Blues Orchestra since 2004 and is also a member of the Ronnie Scott’s Blues Explosion. With these bands, he has enjoyed sharing the stage with many great artists including Tom Jones, Eric Clapton, David Sanborn, Jack Bruce, Amy Winehouse, Michael Buble and Sir Paul McCartney. He is one of the most in-demand and respected guest instrumentalists for jazz clubs across the UK and has received numerous nominations in the British Jazz Awards. In the jazz-funk world he has performed with David Benoit, Brian Culbertson, Ernie Watts, Mezzoforte, Nelson Rangell and Don and Dave Grusin.
Steve Waterman, Patron
Steve is one of the top British jazz trumpet players, both at home and internationally. He began his career while studying at Trinity College Of Music, and since then has worked regularly on the British, European and International jazz scene. He is a professor of Jazz Trumpet at Trinity College of Music in London and visiting Jazz Trumpet specialist at The Royal Northern College Of Music and The Welsh College Of Music And Drama. Steve runs his own Annual Contemporary Big Band Jazz Weekend with Alan Barnes, teaches on many summer jazz courses and has conducted numerous trumpet master classes and workshops ranging in size from small groups to big bands throughout the UK and in Spain, Finland, Latvia, South Africa, and Cuba.