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29th September 2006 at 01:00
Julian Joseph

Job: Jazz musician

Born: 1966

Attended: Weekend Arts College, south London 1982-3

Studied: Music workshops and jazz improvisation

Jazz pianist and regular BBC TV and radio presenter, Julian Joseph was offered a scholarship at the Berklee School of Music in Boston in 1985, after his studies at Weekend Arts College.

He has worked with artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin, Courtney Pine and Joe Williams and led his own trio, quartet, eight-piece and big band as a composer and improviser. His weekly radio show for BBC Radio 3, Jazz Legends, is in its sixth season.

I got into the Weekend Arts College (WAC) when I was just 16 after my English teacher Jackie Peterson suggested I go there because I had a bit of a reputation as a jazz musician in my school, Spencer Park, Wandsworth, south London. One of my friends, Roger Forger, who now plays drums for Courtney Pine, had been already going there since he was 14.

I was very nervous, but the great trumpet player Ian Carr was the teacher and he showed us how to approach music - what we should be listening to and how to decipher it and use it for ourselves.

Ian would come in and have music for us to play and we would work on it and then try and play it. We would share this information. It was good for everybody's confidence.

In addition, we had many of the stars from the British jazz scene helping us first-hand. Jeff Klien the bass player, Jeff Castle the pianist, and Nick France the drummer would come in and teach us.

The kids there were in their formative years, bursting and bristling with creativity and energy and the workshops were amazing.

We would come in about 3pm and everyone would set up the instruments. I would get the keyboard, someone would play the Wurtlizter, the drums, bass, and various other guys were on alto sax and the trumpet.

There were also dance, drama and music classes in an ensemble situation, with the professionals coming in to teach us.

Classes were at the Interchange studios in Kentish Town and it had an energy and a vibe. It was pound;1.50 to go and we just had a great time.

It was 1983 and Fame was on TV and every weekend was a party as we would all go home on the Tube together and make up songs, it was very exciting for all of us.

Every concert time at WAC was a very special moment and I used to always wear dark glasses and play. It was a perfomance thing, like putting your costume on. It seems silly to me now, but not then.

I was just discovering who I was as a teenager and I suppose compared to today, they were very innocent times. But it was very productive and centered on your creativity and how to get on with things in a practical sense. Jazz is extremely rebellious, not about conforming, like being a pop star or a rock star.

WAC is run by Celia Greenwood. She was there from the time I arrived and she is still there helping and encouraging teenagers to utilise their abilities.

It became an amazing meeting point for a lot of us and Celia's good work helped a lot of people. My time there gave me the knowledge that what you want in life, you create, and you create things from what you love, and if you do that you have a happy life.

Ian said to us, 'Value the time you have spent playing music with each other because you'll find you will be playing with the same people when you become professionals' and he was 100 per cent correct.

I hope to have done him and Celia proud, but I want to push myself and my boundaries and get the most creative and challenging music I can from myself.

My ambition is to be a soulful communicatior; a better and a complete musician with variety, history and individuality.

But I would like to say thank you to those guys at WAC for the inspiration they gave me and all my peers and for what they are doing today.

Julian Joseph was talking to Shekhar Bhatia

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