Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra – FYJO – is an award winning big band led for 38 years by musical director, Richard Michael, winner of the 2013 Jazz Educator of Year award, and a 2009 Parliamentary Jazz Award for services to jazz education.
It aims to offer players aged eight to 24 the chance to play, enjoy and develop an interest in music, especially jazz – regardless of initial standard or location. Its musical director is assisted by tutors Carlo Madden and Pete Petrie.
FYJO has played with many of the greats of the jazz scene including Tommy Smith, Carol Kidd, Annie Ross and Fife’s own ‘Big’ Joe Temperley, and has played live on BBC Radio Scotland’s “Jazzhouse” programme.
FYJO has also released a new CD ‘Three Shades of FYJO’ showcasing the work of the Big Band, Combo and Training Band, and it has inspired many players to go ont o study music and pursue professional music careers.
The band is a self financing Scottish charity and invites suitable sponsorship and donations.
Players travel from all over Fife and further afield. Any budding musician is welcome to join - the band has an open door all-inclusive policy and no auditions are necessary.
In 2012 it moved to Lochgelly Centre, but its history dates back to 1976 when one of the first great artists FYJO had working with them was Joe Temperley.
He was beginning to make himself known on the jazz scene, and FYJO had been rehearsing for about two or three years when he came along and blew them away.
FYJO’s first concert in Lochgelly Centre was quite an occasion - it was the first time it b had appeared in public!
It was a a new experience for everybody, incredibly exciting although the band was really short on soloists.
At rehearsals FYJO was concentrating almost exclusively on how to play the Big Band charts.
But in 1978 FYJO was of sufficient quality to be invited to take part in the Festival of Youth Orchestras in Aberdeen where the members performed some concerts.
A few years later FYJO went to France to Brive-la-Gaillarde and the Dordogne and by that time it had really began to establish good jazz playing in the band. The early soloists who came through included Tom Gordon, Kevin Ferris, Keith Hutton.
The success of FYJO has been due in great part to its musical director Richard Michael.
He has won a number of prestigious awards and his latest one was in November last year when he was presented with the accolade for services to jazz education at the 2013 Scottish Jazz Awards held in Edinburgh.
But this isn’t the first time the hard work and dedication of the jazz musician has been recognised.
Last June Richard was given the BEM for his services to music education in Her Majesty the Queen’s birthday honours.
With Richard leading the band, FYJO continues to be successful and will go from strength to strength.