Leitmotif Youth Jazz Workshop – Summer 2022
Dates (All dates in June):
Fri 10 @ 4 PM, Sat 18 @ 10:30AM, Mon 20 @ 10:30AM, Sat 25 @ 4 PM, Sun 26 @ 4 PM.
Venue: Leitmotif Studio, Watertown, MA
Instructors: Ramona Borthwick, Noel Borthwick
Includes five 2.5 hour sessions, culminating in a live performance that will be livestreamed and recorded. Interested students/parents? e-mail to reserve a spot.

[View clips from our past workshops]

Providing a unique opportunity for middle & high school instrumentalists (brass, strings, woodwind, piano, guitar, drums), to be part of a small group jazz combo. Our focus is on developing improvisational skills, jazz phrasing and confidence when soloing. This is a great environment for students to learn, converse, play and practice improvisation in a relaxed environment.

We meet over five sessions, once every two weeks which gives everyone time to process assignments and practice for the next session. At the end of each session, assignments will be given to each student/instrumentalist to aid absorption of the musical materials. The series culminates in a live performance that will be livestreamed and recorded.

Students already part of jazz bands and ensembles in private/public schools will greatly benefit from these workshops, since we focus on skills not typically emphasized during school rehearsals such as:

  • building a jazz vocabulary for improvisation
  • jazz theory – understanding scales/harmony for the tune, harmonic progressions
  • utilizing harmonic devices
  • understanding form
  • group interplay & improving non-verbal communication
  • communication between the rhythm section
  • learning how to swing
  • playing different styles such as modal, bop, blues & jazz latin
  • practical application of music fundamentals learnt in private lessons such as pitch, tone, color, expression, dynamics and rhythm in an ensemble
  • repertoire is hand-picked and varied, comprising unique selections
  • improving confidence in performance, conveying musical ideas
  • lastly, we feel it is important to state something we believe in passionately: Ensemble playing teaches students to bear responsibility for oneself and each other, in building a positive, supportive group dynamic. In the group, they reinforce what has been taught to them in their private lessons, and in performance, they learn to sacrifice egos for the greater good, working as a team to put forth collectively a fine performance.
  • Oh, did we mention it is fun?


Is there an audition or any prerequisites for being part of this group?
You must have a desire to improvise, learn the jazz language. Participants should have skills on their instrument to read music, play major/minor scales, and have some knowledge of jazz chords. Please submit two audio or video tracks that display what you do best, with solos if possible.

We also suggest that you watch the videos below – many participating here were beginner level improvisers initially, but have shown tremendous improvement over time. If you determine that you have the musical skills and can devote the time to practice, then this could be the right learning experience for you.

How do I sign up?
Contact me if interested – please include your name and contact, audition audio/video links if any, and briefly outline your musical experience. If you have any related queries please let me know. I will respond with more details such as dates & times, payment methods etc. thereafter.

How is this different from attending jazz band at school?
Students already part of jazz bands and ensembles in private/public schools will greatly benefit from these workshops, since we focus on skills not emphasized during school rehearsals (bulleted points above). Students also benefit from individual mentoring and are given specifically tailored assignments.

Will students learn how to improvise in 5 sessions?
Jazz improvisation is a skill that requires dedicated practice over many years. Listening, honing your chops on your instrument, imitation and learning the jazz vocabulary are just some of the broader aspects of learning. Assuming that you already take regular lessons for general technique, playing in this ensemble will reinforce this technique.

If you need specific help with jazz theory, concepts and improvisation, you can consider taking private lessons with me. My jazz students include horn and string players, pianists & singers, who have in common the desire to learn jazz and improvise. It is highly recommended that single-note instrumentalists and singers be familiar with theory and harmony. If your teacher does not offer jazz improvisation lessons, you should continue studying your instrument with your teacher, but you can take a few lessons with me to explore areas you need help with and make your journey into jazz easier.

I’m classically trained, but am very interested in improvising. Will this be a good fit for me?
Many of our workshop participants train classically as well. Being classically trained for several years before having made the ‘transition’ into jazz myself, I understand that despite having several years of training at the instrument, improvisation can be a daunting prospect. My jazz students include classically trained pianists, horn and string players, who bring to the instrument technical skills and a knowledge of classical music theory, but have the desire to stretch their creative boundaries. You can book me for a private lesson or a block of lessons that should help you in determining if improvisation is something you may be interested in. It is the hope that armed with practical and better knowledge, you are able to get past the fear that prevents you from expressing your creativity.

Will I get a refund if I miss a session?
Please note that ensemble and workshop fees are non-refundable, unless the workshop is cancelled. There are no make-ups for classes or ensembles missed by the student.


[View past workshops.]