jazz and improvised music

young women's jazz orchestra 

The Young Women’s Jazz Orchestra (YWJO) is a dynamic 17-piece jazz orchestra for talented women aged 15-21 years interested in pursuing jazz and improvised music and developing their skills in playing in a large ensemble.

Apply here & send to jessica@sirensbigband.com by July 29

Presented by Sirens Big Band and Sydney Improvised Music Association (SIMA) the ensemble is born out of SIMA’s highly successful Young Women’s Jazz Workshops. These intensive workshops have become a catalyst for increasing the number of women studying and practicing jazz since 2002. The Young Women's Jazz Orchestra extends this program to provide year-round opportunities under the tutelage of the fantastic Sirens Big Band.

Ensemble members will be offered exclusive professional performance opportunities at festivals and venues throughout NSW as well as the chance to build networks within the local music community, and develop skills and confidence in a supportive environment.

The ensemble will play Australian compositions, allowing members to have the unique experience of working directly with emerging and established composers.

Entry is by written application and audition with weekly rehearsals throughout school terms on Wednesday evenings, 6-8pm at the Seymour Centre in Chippendale.

Key Dates for 2016

Applications close: Friday 22nd July, 5pm.

Auditions: Saturday 30th July 2-5pm (Horns)

                 Sunday 31st July 10-1pm (Rhythm & horns)

Rehearsals: Wednesday evenings (6-8pm)

                    Term Three Dates   

                    August 10, 17, 24, 31
                    September 7, 14, 21

**Auditions & Rehearsals to be held at the Seymour Centre, City Rd and Cleveland St, Chippendale.


During 2016 the YWJO will be offered professional performance opportunities to showcase their talents to Australian audiences.

- Wed 21 Sept 7pm, Music Cafe of the Sydney Con: Premiere at the Young Women's Jazz Workshops Showcase.

- Sat 12 Nov 2.30pm - Turbine Hall of the Powerhouse Museum
Jazz at the Powerhouse - Sydney International Women's Jazz Festival 2016

- Sun 5 Dec 8.30pm - Foundry 616, Ultimo


All applicants must be able to sight-read music. Previous experience playing in stage bands/big band is not a prerequisite but will be looked upon favourably. Applicants should have an interest in developing knowledge and skill in jazz improvisation and large ensemble playing, as well as an interest in studying or developing a career in music.


Positions Available

All positions within the YWJO are vacated at the end of each year and successful 2016 applicants are required to commit for two terms. There are 17 positions available including: 

  • Alto Saxophone (2)
  • Tenor Saxophone (2)
  • Baritone Saxophone (1)
  • Trumpet (4)
  • Trombone (3)
  • Bass Trombone (1)
  • Piano (1)
  • Bass (1)
  • Guitar (1)
  • Drums (1)

Audition Requirements:


Scales (please play 2 octaves where possible):

  • Major scales F, D, Eb, Ab, B
  • Harmonic minor - E, G, C, F#, C#
  • Chromatic - 2 octaves starting on a note of your choice

Own choice: 1 piece/excerpt in a jazz style, 1-2 minutes in duration, optional improvised solo (If playing a solo, please provide your own backing track on CD or bring 2 concert pitch charts with chord changes for piano and bass accompaniment)

Sight reading: big band excerpt (for piano/guitar/bass this will include notation and chord symbols)


Scales (on piano):

  • F major
  • D major
  • A harmonic minor

Own choice: 1 piece/excerpt in a jazz style, 1-2 minutes in duration, optional improvised solo

Sight reading: big band excerpt

Demonstrate the following feels in varying tempos:

  • swing feel
  • latin feel
  • your choice of feel in a time signature other than 4/4 (e.g 3/4, 5/4, 6/8)


For more information see www.sirensbigband.com and www.sima.org.au

For enquiries please contact Jessica Dunn on 0421 749 805 or jessica@sirensbigband.com

who is the young women's jazz orchestra?


The Young Women's Jazz Orchestra will be conducted by renowned Sydney-based trumpeter, composer, band director and educator, Ellen Kirkwood. Ellen has been directing award winning high school big bands and jazz ensembles for over ten years and is a tutor at SIMA’s Young Women’s Jazz Workshops. Winner of the 2012 Jann Rutherford Memorial Award for excellence in jazz and band-leader of The Mieville Project and Fat Yahoozah, she also performs regularly with Sirens Big Band and Mister Ott at major festivals and venues across Australia. Ellen was recently commissioned to compose and premiere a suite at the 2015 Sydney International Jazz Festival and was awarded an Australia Council for the Arts grant to study composition with world renowned Barney McAll.

Students will also be offered performance and mentorship opportunities with members of Sirens Big Band who are sought-after educators and in-demand musicians passionate about educating the next generation of female instrumentalists.

Winners of the Jann Rutherford Memorial Award, Sirens Big Band was formed in 2009 when founding members Jessica Dunn and Harri Harding met at SIMA’s Young Women’s Jazz Workshop. The ensemble present exciting and engaging Australian large ensemble music and have performed at festivals such as Sydney Festival, Brisbane Festival, Capital Jazz Project and Parramasala with artists as diverse as Claire Daly (US), Mohamed Youssef and Sandy Evans. Sirens attempts to redress the gender imbalance in jazz by providing opportunities to a community of outstanding female musicians and composers.

Sydney Improvised Music Association

SIMA is a leading contemporary jazz presenter in Australia and a platform for hundreds of contemporary jazz artists to present a broad spectrum of jazz and improvised music each year. SIMA contributes to Australian jazz through its artist development programs and Education program Cool for School. SIMA has significant programs to develop female representation in jazz.

These include the Young Women’s Jazz Workshops founded with Dr Sandy Evans OAM in 2002 now in NSW, WA and ACT and the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival, held annually in November. This festival show cases women as bandleaders, composers and performers. SIMA is a non-profit organisation and registered charity listed on The Ministry’s Register of Cultural Organisations.