WAYJO honours Mace Francis

Kelly Marie Smith, ECU Journalist

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West Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra – also known as WAYJO – is the premier youth jazz orchestra in Australia, nurturing young emerging jazz artists aged 14- 25 through programs that seek to develop life skills, like self-confidence and collaboration.

What was once a single 18-piece ensemble has grown into supporting three full orchestras today. WAYJO artistic director Dr Mace Francis, joined the orchestra as a musician and talented composer in 2001.

The concert, Jazz Under the Stars, on November 24 will pay homage to the work Dr Francis has done for the youth orchestra over the years. The artists will be performing a collection of his compositions for big band, as well as debuting work especially written for that evening.

The accomplished artist said WAYJO has provided him with opportunities he had never imagined.

“The opportunity to play, compose and rehearse with peers and other professionals has been something that I have appreciated throughout my 10 years as Artistic Director.

“It’s also been extremely rewarding composing new music with young musicians and seeing them grow as musicians and people.”

According to WAJO’s manager Simon Keen, Mace and WAYJO go hand-in-hand.

“Mace has been a part of WAYJO for half of its existence, and has generated a reputation worldwide for his work with young musicians and artists.

He works with integrity and treats young musicians as respected artists, whatever their skill levels. Mace’s over-arching goal is to see these young artists blossom into the next generation of musicians taking the stage in Australia and across the world.”

The reputation that WAYJO holds is something all those in the WA jazz scene know and respect. Young artists who audition successfully are given the opportunity to collaborate and learn from leading national and international guest artists, all while playing at some of WA’s premier music venues.

WAYJO has witnessed, while also encouraging, the rise in young jazz artists in Western Australia, with Mr Keen observing that there has been an obvious increase in the number of artists eager to join the prestigious community.

“The record number of auditionees we are seeing for 2018 is remarkable. Young people are realising that there are career pathways for them in jazz and music, they are beginning to develop their own sounds and styles.

Perth is a real hotspot for jazz in Australia, and the youth field is well catered for by both WAAPA and WAYJO.”

The impact Dr Francis has had on jazz artists in WA could not go unnoticed, as Mr Keen notes, his enthusiasm is felt by all the staff and musicians.

“The willingness of WAYJO alumni and international performers to come back and work with Mace and WAYJO is a testament to his dedication. We can’t overstate the importance of Mace to what has been built here over the years.”

For those watching and performing at the Quarry Amphitheatre, the night is all about showcasing the work of a dedicated artist and teacher, who is well known for his infectious passion for Big Band Jazz.

To find out more, head to WAYJO’s website, or Ticketmaster to buy tickets to Jazz Under the Stars this November.

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WAYJO honours Mace Francis