NYO Jazz, Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Jazz Orchestra, announces Debut Tour to South Africa

May 3, 2024

Artistic Director and Bandleader / Trumpeter Sean Jones leads Ensemble with vocalist Alicia Olatuja as Special Guest at Carnegie Hall and on SA tour.

First-ever tour to Africa by one of Carnegie Hall’s three acclaimed National Youth Ensembles to include debut performances in Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town from 22 July – 5 August 2024.

Program to include big band classics, new arrangements, and a new Carnegie Hall-commissioned work by South African composer Sibusiso Mash Mashiloane.

(New York, USA – 2 May 2024) –  This July and August, Carnegie Hall’s critically acclaimed national youth jazz orchestra, NYO Jazz, returns for its seventh season of extraordinary music-making and embarks on its first-ever tour to South Africa. This remarkable ensemble, created by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute in 2018, annually brings together some of the most outstanding teen jazz musicians from across the United States to train, perform, and tour with some of the world’s greatest artists while also serving as music ambassadors, sharing America’s greatest art form with audiences around the globe.

NYO Jazz will perform at Carnegie Hall in New York on 20 July, before beginning their historic visit to South Africa. The tour includes debut performances at The Market Theatre, Johannesburg (26, 27 & 28 July); The Playhouse, Durban (1 August); and Artscape, Cape Town (2 & 3 August) as well as music-making with local South African musicians. This tour marks the first time that one of Carnegie Hall’s three acclaimed national youth ensembles will perform on the African continent. It follows successful international tours by NYO Jazz to some of the most prestigious concert halls and music festivals across Europe, Asia, and the United States. NYO Jazz was previously scheduled to tour South Africa in 2020, but the tour was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Celebrated Artistic Director and bandleader/trumpeter Sean Jones leads NYO Jazz, joined by vocalist Alicia Olatuja, who has been praised by The New York Times as “a singer with a strong and luscious tone,” as special guest for their annual Carnegie Hall concert and on tour. As part of its South African tour, the band will also be joined by local guest soloists to be announced in June.

Ahead of their South African tour, the musicians will arrive in New York in early July to begin an intensive 10-day training residency. They will work with world-class jazz masters on the campus of Purchase College, State University of New York, located just north of New York City. Immediately following the residency, NYO Jazz will perform its annual concert at Carnegie Hall on 20 July which will be livestreamed on the Hall’s website and later released on its on-demand streaming platform Carnegie Hall+.

NYO Jazz’s 2024 South African tour offers America’s finest young musicians the opportunity to experience the richness of the country’s culture and history while sharing their remarkable artistry with audiences throughout the country. Complementing their performances, the players’ schedule will also include exciting opportunities for cultural exchange and peer-to-peer activities with local young people, an element that has become a hallmark of international tours by all three of Carnegie Hall’s national youth ensembles.

“We are thrilled to have NYO Jazz make its debut in South Africa this year—the first visit to Africa by any of our national youth ensembles,” said Clive Gillinson, Executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall. “Given South Africa’s extraordinarily rich music traditions, which include a deep passion for jazz, we know this tour will be a tremendous opportunity for musical and cultural discovery for these brilliant young players. We are proud to showcase their incredible depth of talent and the high level of musicianship found across the United States as we connect the members of NYO Jazz with young musicians and music lovers in South Africa.”

For NYO Jazz’s 2024 concerts, Carnegie Hall has commissioned a new work by South African composer Sibusiso Mash Mashiloane. The ensemble’s diverse program will also include big band classics by Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Mary Lou Williams; a new big band arrangement from Terri Lyne Carrington’s project “New Standards: 101 Lead Sheets by Women Composers”: Lakecia Benjamin’s “Trane,” arranged by Jhoely Garay and other contemporary pieces, showcasing jazz as a living and limitless art form.

“South Africa is indeed a motherland where jazz resonates deeply within our souls, and we are thrilled to host the gifted NYO Jazz musicians,” said Sibusiso Mash Mashiloane. “My composition for NYO Jazz is an invitation to a musical dialogue celebrating South African ways of musicking. We will weave together the joyful spirit of the legendary Hugh Masekela with many of our other diverse musical influences, creating a powerful and unforgettable sound of our home: South Africa.”

NYO Jazz Tour dates

The Market Theatre, Johannesburg.
Friday, 26 July at 19h00.
Saturday, 27 July at 15h00 & 19h00.
Sunday, 28 July at 15h00.
Bookings via Webtickets.
For reduced-price block bookings (of 10 or more) and school groups, contact Anthony Ezeoke, (Audience Development), at AnthonyE@markettheatre.co.za or 083 246 4950 and Mamello Khomongoe mamellok@markettheatre.co.za or 081 572 9612.

The Playhouse, Durban.
Thursday, 1 August at 19h00. 
Bookings via Webtickets.

For reduced-price block bookings (of 5 or more) and school groups, contact Gugu at marketingcoordinator@playhousecompany.com

Artscape, Cape Town.
Friday, 2 August at 19h00. 
Saturday, 3 August at 15h00 & 19h00.
Bookings via Webtickets.
For reduced-price block bookings (of 10 or more) and school groups, contact Artscape Dial-a-Seat on 021 421 7695.

To learn more about NYO Jazz, visit carnegiehall.org/NYOJazz

Like NYO Jazz on Facebook
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Follow on Twitter at #NYOJazz
See more on YouTube.

Issued on behalf of Carnegie Hall by TPW, South Africa.

Contact: Benjy Mudie – benjy@tpwagency.co.za / +27 (0) 82 490 2743.

South African Tour produced by Arte Viva Management.

Contact: Nikki Froneman – nikki@artevivamanagement.com / +27 (0) 84 2266 556.


About NYO Jazz

Each US summer, NYO Jazz, led by artistic director Sean Jones, shines a spotlight on the depth of talent found among teen jazz players across the United States. The program offers talented young musicians ages 16–19 the opportunity to perform as cultural ambassadors for their country, sharing a uniquely American musical genre with people around the world. The members of NYO Jazz have been recognized by Carnegie Hall as among the finest jazz musicians in the country following a rigorous and highly competitive audition process.

Since its debut in 2018, NYO Jazz has performed at Carnegie Hall and embarked on acclaimed tours across Europe, Asia, and the United States. Guest artists in past seasons have included vocalists Dianne Reeves, Kurt Elling, Jazzmeia Horn, and Dee Dee Bridgewater. As part of their travel schedule, NYO Jazz musicians have opportunities to meet and collaborate with young local musicians and experience the richness of different cultures and music.

In 2021, the band recorded its first full-length studio album under Mr. Jones’s direction with special guest saxophonist Melissa Aldana. It includes Carnegie Hall–commissioned works for the ensemble from each year of the program, exploring themes that include social justice, resilience, and the power of music to spark joy. The album, entitled We’re Still Here, was released in 2022.

NYO Jazz builds on the success of the acclaimed National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (NYO-USA) and its sister ensemble for younger musicians, NYO2—programs created by Carnegie Hall in 2013 and 2016, respectively—to bring together the finest young classical musicians from across the country each summer for training, performances, and international touring. Each of these prestigious national programs—free to all participants—is dedicated to the proposition that talented young musicians thrive when given the opportunity to expand their musical, social, and cultural horizons and share their artistry with audiences around the globe.

About Sean Jones

Music and spirituality have always been fully intertwined in the artistic vision of trumpeter, bandleader, composer, educator and activist Sean Jones. Singing and performing as a child with the church choir in his hometown of Warren, Ohio, Jones switched from the drums to the trumpet at the age of 10.

Jones is a musical chameleon and is comfortable in any musical setting no matter what the role or the genre. He is equally adept in being a member of an ensemble as he is at being a bandleader. Jones turned a 6-month stint with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra into an offer from Wynton Marsalis for a permanent position as lead trumpeter, a post he held from 2004 until 2010. In 2015, Jones was tapped to become a member of the SFJAZZ Collective. During this time, he managed to keep a core group of talented musicians together under his leadership forming the foundation for his groups that have produced and released eight recordings on the Mack Avenue Records, the latest is his 2017 release Sean Jones: Live from the Jazz Bistro.

Sean Jones has been prominently featured with a number of artists, recording and/or performing with many major figures in jazz, including Illinois Jacquet, Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, Nancy Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Gerald Wilson and Marcus Miller. Jones was selected by Miller, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter for their Tribute to Miles tour in 2011.

He has also performed with the Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Youngstown Symphony Orchestras as well as Soulful Symphony in Baltimore and in a chamber group at the Salt Bay Chamber Festival. Sean is also an internationally recognized educator. In addition to serving as artistic director of NYO Jazz—one of Carnegie Hall’s three acclaimed national youth ensembles—he is the immediate past president of the Jazz Education Network. In 2018, he was named the Richard and Elizabeth Case Chair of Jazz at John Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute in Baltimore. Before coming to Peabody, Jones served as the Chair of the Brass Department at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

About Alicia Olatuja

Vocalist, composer, and educator Alicia Olatuja performs aural artistry in a wondrous weave of jazz, blues, gospel, classical, pop, and Afropop. Her embrace of those sonic stylings has enabled her to work with a wide variety of musicians—from jazz superstars Chris Botti, Billy Childs, Christian McBride, and Michael Olatuja to R&B and gospel legends Chaka Khan and BeBe Winans.

Inspired by Whitney Houston, Ms. Olatuja started singing at age five. The St. Louis native sang in the Berean Seventh-Day Adventist Church; listened to a wide variety of Black music that included jazz, R&B, and soul; and was classically trained as a mezzo-soprano. After double majoring in veterinary medicine and music at the University of Missouri, she earned her master’s degree in classical voice and opera from the Manhattan School of Music.

In 2013, Ms. Olatuja sang the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir at President Obama’s Second Inauguration. New York Daily News praised her as “a new musical star.”  In 2014, Ms. Olatuja sang with Billy Childs’s touring ensemble that performed music from Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro. She went on to work with many other artists. She played on bassist Christian McBride’s recording The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons. She has also worked with drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. on his Songs of Freedom, a Jazz at Lincoln Center commissioned project that featured the music of Abbey Lincoln, Joni Mitchell, and Nina Simone.

Ms. Olatuja’s debut recording, Timeless, earned a four-star review from DownBeat. Her second release, Intuition: Songs from the Minds of Women, featured compositions by women including Sade, Linda Creed, Kate Bush, Tracy Chapman, and Angela Bofill. In 2023, she recorded The Parsonage: True Tales of Love and Anarchy at 64 East 7th Street, which features vocalist Theo Bleckmann. Her forthcoming projects include a reunion recording with Michael Olatuja, with whom she has been touring since 2021, and a new solo project.


What the Press Have Said About NYO Jazz

“The NYO Jazz ensemble, stocked with ambitious young players under the leadership of the trumpeter Sean Jones, tackles an intriguing program.” —The New Yorker

“…the ensemble sound was crisp, the rhythm section supple and swinging. As eloquent solos unfurled, you could be pretty confident you were hearing some stars of tomorrow.” —The Times (London) (Four-star review)

“You stepped out onto the wet streets after the concert and wanted to dance through the puddles – that’s the effect of this electrifying evening. The virtuosity and energy of the 23 musicians is astonishing.” —Der Tagesspiegel (Berlin)

“This young players’ tour, which they executed with such brilliance and heart-warming generosity, has come not a moment too soon.” —The Telegraph (Five-star review)
“Jazz may not be the lingua franca of Generation Z, but this performance was resounding proof that the music still bridges the chasm.” —The Times (London) (Four-star review)

“This teenage big band … was more than capable of responding with real bravura to the uncompromising improvisational challenges of seasoned players.” —The Scotsman

“Young jazz musicians from the US wow audiences across the country.” —China Daily

“The group, which recently wrapped up touring with a concert at the Kennedy Center, performs at a level of musicianship far beyond their years.”—Washington Informer

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Lead Donors: Hope and Robert F. Smith, The Kovner Foundation, and Beatrice Santo Domingo.

Global Ambassadors: Michael Byung Ju Kim and Kyung Ah Park, Hope and Robert F. Smith, and Maggie and Richard Tsai.

Major support has been provided by Veronica Atkins, Mercedes T. Bass, Ronald E. Blaylock and Petra Pope, Clive and Anya Gillinson, Melanie and Jean E. Salata, Sarah Billinghurst Solomon, and Howard Solomon, and Joyce and George Wein Foundation, Inc.

Additional support has been provided by the Alphadyne Foundation, Sarah Arison, Stella and Robert Jones, Martha and Robert Lipp, Beth and Joshua Nash, and David S. Winter.

NYO Jazz is made possible, in part, by an endowment grant from the Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme Foundation.

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Top banner photo of NYO Jazz by Todd Rosenberg