Developing your sound

Our popular Summer Weekend Workshop returns on 3-4 August this year with the theme: Developing your sound: playing and philosophy of jazz improvisation. It will be a whole weekend of listening and playing in the company of others who want to learn and improve jazz skills.

The tutors are James Birkett, one of the pioneers of jazz education in the North East and an outstanding guitarist, and Faye MacCalman, a highly acclaimed performer and composer specialising in improvisation with saxophone, clarinet and voice.

Participants will have the opportunity to select and explore a range of skills, techniques and concepts through which they can develop the art of jazz and improvisation. These will include:

  • Working with voice, instruments, rhythm and percussion as tools for improvisation
  • Exploring, creating and improvising with melodic and harmonic patterns
  • Internalising melody and harmony
  • Expression through dynamics, timbre and textures
  • Structuring improvised solos and accompaniments
  • Composition and arranging processes
  • Practice, rehearsal and performance techniques
  • Individual and ensemble sound

About the workshop

The workshop is suitable for all instrumentalists and for improvising vocalists. You do not need to have much experience of jazz, but you should be able to play scales (and chords if appropriate) with ease. Minimum age 16.

The workshop will run from 9.30am to 5pm on Saturday and 9.30am to 4.30pm on Sunday 3-4 August. It will take place at The Globe, 11 Railway Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 7AD. During the workshop The Globe will be closed to the general public.

About the tutors

James Birkett has been a professional guitarist for nearly 50 years and has worked with many major jazz soloists from the UK (Digby Fairweather, John Barnes, Dick Morrissey, Don Weller, Roy Williams, Harry Becket, Don Rendell, Guy Barker, Alan Barnes, Bruce Adams, Jamie Talbot, Ronnie Ross, Peter King, Alan Skidmore, Brian Lemon, Al Gay, Chris ‘Snake’ Davis) and the USA (Scott Hamilton, Bud Freeman, Peanuts Hucko, Spike Robinson, Kenny Davern, Harry Allen). James is currently active on the concert and festival circuit with Birkett & Fisk and Emma Fisk’s Hot Club du Nord.

James is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and has experience of teaching music at all levels and in all contexts. From 1986 to 2011, he developed and led the pioneering Graduate Diploma and BMus (Hons) degree programmes in Jazz, Popular and Commercial Music in the North East. For many years he was based at Sage Gateshead as Director of Jazz for the Youth Music Programme and Artistic Advisor: Jazz, Popular and Contemporary Music for The Centre for Advanced Training. For the last five years James has been running the Advanced Jazz Guitar course at Jazz.Coop.

Faye MacCalman is an improvisor, performer and composer-songwriter based in the North East playing saxophone, clarinet and voice. Faye composes for and leads award winning genre crossing trio ‘Archipelago’, exploring song forms and improvisation through post jazz dreamscapes. Faye has performed with bands and artists including The Unthanks (‘The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake’), Paul Smith (Maximo Park), Anna Meredith and Zoe Rahman. Teaching instrumental, improvisation and songwriting lessons at Newcastle University, Leeds College of Music Faye also facilitates workshops.

As a recipient of a Help Musicians UK ‘Peter Whittingham Development Award’ in 2018 Faye co-ran BETWEEN WAVES, a collaborative project for female artists from around the UK to create new music with Archipelago in Newcastle upon Tyne. In 2018 after a commission to create new music from Lancaster Jazz Festival, Faye formed a new collaboration between Leeds based trio J Frisco and Archipelago; ‘Archifrisco’. In 2017 UK journalist Kevin Le Gendre described Faye as ‘providing food for thought on what jazz is and can become’.

She performs and/or records with: Archipelago, J Frisco, Paul Taylor, Ponyland, The Unthanks, John Pope Quintet, Gwilly Edmondez, Charlie Collins, Paul Smith, Ceitidh Mac, Kleevex, The Midnight Doctors

The weekend workshop costs £105 (or £95.50 for Jazz.Coop members – click here for more information about becoming a member).
The workshop fee includes all tuition and free admission to the gig on Sunday evening.
Snacks and hot and cold drinks will be available from the bar (to be paid separately).
Overnight accommodation is not included.

If you would like to take part but can only attend for one day we may be able to fit you in. Please email before booking. The fee for one day would be £52.50.

To book
Places are limited so please book now. To confirm your booking you need to pay for the course in advance.
You can pay in one of the following ways:
1 By bank transfer (online banking) directly into our bank account: Account name: Pink Lane Jazz Co-op Ltd, Account number: 65650408, Sort code: 08 92 99
2 By making an online payment by credit/debit card or PayPal: use the button at the bottom of this web page
3 By sending a cheque, payable to: Pink Lane Jazz Co-op Ltd, and post it to The Treasurer, 209 Centralofts, 21 Waterloo Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4AL

Any Questions?
Please email


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