Tommy Smith

Arild Andersen Trio UK Tour w/Tommy Smith & Paolo Vinaccia

Arild Andersen Trio Poster Final Back

Instrumental Tuition

Ten thousand thanks for all your tremendous support.

TSYJO Hub CFR 282ColinRobertson2

As we hit 10,000 signatures that emphatically oppose the proposed Edinburgh City Council destructive cut of 75% to our Instrumental Tuition Service, we step significantly closer to eventually hearing from a senior Council officer and the evidence they may communicate at a public meeting to whether they will expunge their apathetic overture.

The Edinburgh City Council Petition Committee, which consists of 10 members: 3 Labour; 3 SNP; 2 Conservative; 1 Green; and 1 SLD, all congregate on Thursday 21 January 2016 and trustingly will discuss and debate our petition with philosophic wisdom.

The committee is:

Councillor Jeremy Balfour [Con] Telephone: 0131 529 4083 E:

Councillor Chas Booth[Green] Telephone: 0131 529 3182 E:

Councillor Denis Dixon [SNP] Telephone: 0131 529 4988 E:

Councillor Marion Donaldson[Lab] Telephone: 0131 469 3841 E:

Councillor Paul Edie [Lib] Telephone: 0131 529 3172 E:

Councillor Nick Gardner [Lab] Telephone: 0131 529 3282 E:

Councillor Karen Keil [Lab] Telephone: 0131 529 3261 E:

Councillor David Key [SNP] Telephone: 0131 529 3260 E:

Councillor Alex Lunn [SNP] Telephone: 0131 529 4956 E:

Councillor Lindsay Paterson [Con] Telephone: 0131 529 4970 E:

Scottish singer, songwriter, musician and actress, Shirley Manson has written this heartfelt letter to the council, which I encourage you to read.

“Dear City of Edinburgh Council

It has been brought to my attention that you are proposing a 75% cut to the budget that funds Edinburgh’s instrumental music tuition and all of the Edinburgh Schools Orchestras and ensembles.

It is difficult at this time in our culture, where everything is weighed, measured and valued in financial terms or by how popular it is, for music education to be considered important or necessary.

However it is crucial as a society that we safeguard as many of the beautiful, wonderful, nebulous things that bring joy and happiness to people all across the globe, that are of cultural importance.

The difficulty being that the cultural importance and the impact of music is often impossible to evaluate in simple monetary terms.

Unless music is presented in the particular form that generates massive amounts of money for the corporate world and proves itself wildly popular to an international pre-teen audience, it becomes so easy to dismiss.

I understand you are in a tough position. Setting budgets to run a city cannot be easy.

But I beg you to rethink your position on this proposal.

We are living in dark times. The news is at best depressing, at it’s worst, terrifying.

Music is an art form that transcends terror. It is the exquisite and beautiful opposing force to everything that is cruel and frightening in this world.
Please do not rob the school children of Edinburgh of the opportunity to engage with music, learn from it, fall in love with it, master it.

As a former pupil of Flora Stevenson Primary School and Broughton High School in Edinburgh, I have personally benefited directly from the musical tuition that was offered up to students in Edinburgh as part of our educational curriculum.

As a result apparently of displaying an aptitude for music I was picked out by my teachers for both violin and clarinet tuition. I played in my school orchestras and sang with both choirs.

I have gone on to enjoy a career in music that has lasted over 30 years. I’ve played all over the world and been exposed to so many experiences that I am so fortunate and grateful to have had.

There is not a day goes by when I don’t think how lucky I am.

Everywhere I have travelled I have spoken of the immense good fortune of being born in Edinburgh where I received a musical education that I quickly came to realize was exemplary.

I hope that the pupils of Edinburgh schools with an aptitude for music continue to be as fortunate as I was.

That is what I hope for them and for the great city of Edinburgh.

Finally…..I hope that anyone in Edinburgh with a love of music will repost this story of these proposed cuts, protest in their own voice where possible and lend their name to the petition of protest on Change.Org

I also urge any Edinburgh based papers to report on this story.

Perhaps if we all push together, we can make a change to this proposal.
After all, in the words of the mighty Patti Smith,
Love all, hate no one.”

Here are some other quotes from individuals who signed the petition:

“Free music tuition is a lifeline of help to so many children from very mixed backgrounds. It enriches life and broadens horizons.”
Michael Holton, Haddington, United Kingdom

“I don’t want school instrument tuition to be the exclusive preserve of the affluent middle class in Scotland. As if it wasn’t a big enough deterrent already for poorer households that families have to pay for a child’s musical instrument, this move will make it even less likely that a child from a poorer household will have the opportunity to play an instrument.”
Rebecca Reid, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

“My daughter has benefited immensely from free music tuition, both at primary and secondary school. Our primary school’s parents association regularly buys more instruments to allow the wind and brass band to grow.
Private music tuition is unaffordable and a luxury for many families. If this extreme cut goes through, so many kids won’t get a chance to receive music lessons and schools will be left with a pile of instruments and no one to use them!

The music tuition service is so much more than just weekly lessons – there are numerous performance experiences throughout the year, the experience and challenge of dedicated practice and the rewards that brings, boost to self confidence and positive impact on mental health… there will be children who may struggle with other aspects of school, but excel at their music tuition.
How many young musicians will we lose? How many young people who wish to become a professional musician, but their families cannot afford lessons or to spend hundreds of pounds on providing instruments at home?
Learning to play an instrument should NOT become an elitist pastime.”
Jeda Lewis, Edinburgh, United Kingdom…

Image by Colin Robertson

2015 in Edinburgh on te%

2015 in Rome on te%

Time and Motion – Reflections on the First Twenty Years of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra

SNJO 2015 20c year

Is it really 2015? It seems astonishing that a double of tens have passed since the birth of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, yet here we are. Our story is a compelling one by any measure, and it reads at times like a drama in three acts.

First there was the shaky start followed by challenge and adversity, and an eventual outcome that’s been a resounding victory for Scottish jazz. Of course, it takes time to win hearts and stimulate minds, but it also requires forward motion to stay vibrant, alive and relevant. We also found that we needed grit and determination. When the SNJO company name was stolen in 1998 I had to fight for a year to get it back, finally succeeding with the guidance of the Musician’s Union and their lawyers.

In the beginning, the SNJO enjoyed no institutional support and endured three lean, formative years before we received our first major support in 1998. Even then, the hand-to-mouth existence persisted for a further eleven years. In those days, I wore every administrative, organisational and operational hat going, but became a master of none. The Scottish Arts Council stepped in with more support and in 2010 we appointed our first manager. After fifteen years we were finally off, and I was free.

A year later, our second orchestra manager Lindsay Robertson was appointed, and she has more than made a difference, empowering the SNJO with her wisdom, experience and generosity. Our administrative structure remains modest, but combined with the unstinting support of our dedicated board, we have been able to achieve many great things. We are also especially indebted to all the wonderful friends of the SNJO who support our every move.

Over the years, there have been outstanding concerts, milestone recordings and memorable evenings with world-renowned masters of jazz as our very special guests. I’ve enjoyed so many stunning experiences in my role as artistic director of the SNJO it’s almost impossible to single out specific highlights.

However, some of the most vivid concerts featured the elegance of Gary Burton, the energy of Arild Andersen, the effervescence of Kenny Wheeler, and an electrifying John Scofield playing the music of Miles Davis. Neither will I quickly forget World of the Gods and our 2010 performances with the magnificent Mugenyko Taiko Drummers.

Over the years it has given me great pleasure to welcome Joe Lovano in Torah, David Dave Liebman and Bill William Evans in Beauty & the Beast, Kurt Elling in Syntopicon, and Peter Erskine in Weather Report. Certainly, I hope that SNJO fans recall as fondly as I do Planet Wave with legendary poet Edwin Morgan, the Chick Corea programme with drummer Gary Novak and Rhapsody in Blue with Brian Kellock. Most certainly, our shows with the much-missed Tam White, and our celebration of Michael Brecker with his brother Randy, connected strongly with all who were there.

We can be proud too of our modest CD output too. The critical success of Culloden Moor with Bobby Wellins, and In the Spirit of Duke both consolidated our growing reputation for excellence. Also, the recordings we made of Celebration for the iconic jazz label ECM, and more recently American Adventure were particularly important landmarks for the SNJO that provided great personal satisfaction.

Last year, however, the SNJO enjoyed its most emphatic concert season so far. We shared the stage with the brilliant Branford Marsalis paying tribute to Shorter, the unstoppable Courtney Pine playing Coltrane and Bob Mintzer guiding us elegantly through the Yellowjackets repertoire. Audiences responded particularly warmly as Laurence Cottle, Marcio Doctor and Gareth Lockrane joined us to visit the music of Jaco Pastorius in pulsating style. Most memorably, maestro Makoto Ozone joined us in performances of Mozart and Gershwin that were quite justifiably described as a tour-de-force. In fact, I’ll be mixing recordings from these Mozart concerts for the new SNJO release this year.

Over the years the SNJO has enjoyed access to some of the music world’s most phenomenal arrangers. This great art is often taken for granted, so it only seems right to name-check people like Maria Schneider, Joe Locke, Makoto Ozone, Florian Ross, Geoffrey Keezer, Christian Jacob, the late Fred Sturm, Manu Pekar, Pino Jodice, Michael Gibbs, Bob Mintzer and Michael Abene. They have been pivotal to the establishment of the SNJO as an energetic contemporary jazz orchestra.

We must acknowledge of course the outstanding contribution the SNJO musicians have made to the quality of the music. Countless names have performed with the orchestra over the last twenty years including: Aidan O’Donnell, John Blease, John Rae, Colin Steele, Phil Bancroft, Ryan Quigley, Rachel Cohen, Kevin Mackenzie, Phil O’Malley, Eddie Severn, Allon Beauviosin, Paul Towndrow, Chris Greive, Konrad Wiszniewski, Brian Kellock, Calum Gourlay, Steve Hamilton, Paul Harrison, Lorna McDonald, Mario Caribé, Martin Kershaw, Tom MacNiven and Alyn Cosker to name but a few.

Time passes and leaves us with fond memories, but the SNJO thrives on perpetual motion. I’m looking forward to making as much original and classic jazz music as we can, forging even stronger relationships with major international guest artists, and creating inspiring orchestral jazz. One particular ambition must be to address the step-wise release of our recorded legacy from its current home in the SNJO vaults. Then, the listening world will truly hear how far we’ve come, but in my heart I know how far we’ve yet to travel.

Tommy Smith
Artistic Director
Scottish National Jazz Orchestra

Tommy Smith – Live At The Barbican, London

Tommy Smith & Brian Kellock

The Catstrand, New Galloway, Scotland 18 April 2014

SNJO featuring Kurt Elling

Glasgow, Feb. 2014

‘And we’ll take a rich guid-willy waught’


Dear Supporters of ‘Review all Genres of Music’,

When I departed home this morning the petition was quiescent at 442 and my bones were unsettled. Having just returned from teaching at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland it’s now ascending at an active 832. I’ve taken time to dutifully read everything everyone has written and I’d like to take this humble opportunity to thank you all; this grand list of individuals from 21 countries, for your time, resolve, passion and creativity. For without whom, this entire petition would not have had the effect to cause such a swift wave in the corridors of power.

“We’ll tak a cup o kindness yet.”

25th January 2014

Dear Robert Burns and his descendants,

On this sacred day, the Scotsman newspaper has taken the budgetary decision to end reviewing world music, classical and jazz recordings, which is a heart-breaking bowdlerization of minority art forms and another cessation for the popularization and liberality of creativity. They may publish occasional reviews in the future but only from their syndication agreements, as long as they don’t have to pay for them. Who knows where they’ll appear, as their current Saturday magazine is also going to the four winds.