Friday 22 February 2013

The Friday Interview: Kathy Dyson

                               Photo credit: Denis Dalby

Dr Kathy Dyson is one of the most active musicians in the country. Alongside a busy schedule of performances with her guitar duo Emily Remembered with Deidre Cartwright and her group The Jazz Department, she is a well-respected figure in jazz education, winning Jazz Educator of the Year in 2010 at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards. On top of all that, she has just been appointed Chair of the MU Executive Committee. We caught up with Kathy to discuss her plans for the MU, her thoughts on jazz education and the music she's listening to...

Congratulations on your appointment as MU Chair. Can you tell us about your new role and your plans for your time as Chair?

Thank you! It's a great honour to have been elected chair, especially as it's the 120th anniversary year and I hope that more women (and men) will get actively involved in MU work and issues. The latest MU research is called The Working Musician and demonstrates the chronically low levels of pay (or no pay at all) that self-employed musicians earn. It reveals that after years of training, more than half (54%) get paid less than 20k a year, and that 60% have worked for free in the past year. Our #WorkNotPlay campaign has been set up to highlight this issue and I hope we can change this prevalent issue of everyone buy musicians being paid and audiences wanting to listen to music for free.

Alongside your work with the MU, you are also continuing to be involved in jazz education with the Northern School of Jazz. What are the aims of the school and what do you think is important in jazz education?

The aim is to provide intensive and focused jazz education, at a low cost and at weekends, for those who intend to become professional musicians. The emphasis is on playing and learning by ear, in time-honoured fashion, and we spend a great deal of time on aural skills, transcription, learning tunes from memory and developing improvisation. I think jazz education is about praxis - learning by doing as an artform, scaffolded by theory and craft-based technical activity. It should take place within a community of practice, and a friendly, supportive environment where students can learn from and with each other. I feel it should also combine and integrate the best of US and European practice and that learning by ear and with historical models and transcription is very valuable. At the same time, students should be encouraged to find their own voice early on and incorporate their own musical inspirations and current musical trends.

What projects are you involved in musically at the moment?

I'm still involved with Emily Remembered, with Deidre Cartwright, as well as the Jazz Department and Inside Outside duo. I'm working on a composition for octet that incorporates and responds to photographs, which  will probably be finished by autumn. It was inspired by the recent William Klein/Daido Moriyama exhibition at the Tate Modern and especially of Moriyama's 'on the road' and street photos, which have an improvised quality and are full of texture, contrast and a lot of abstraction and mystery.

What music are you listening to?

I bought Chris Potter's The Sirens last week and am listening to that now. The sound of the band is absolutely beautiful, having been recorded by James Farber and released by ECM. I think it's a stunning album and I love the combination of groove, free and straight playing. Last night I was listening to Alfred Brendel play Fantasy and Fugue in A minor by JS Bach, which is also brilliant, and a romantic, very moving and musical interpretation.

Where can we hear you next?

Deidre and I have a couple of gigs in the South West in early March at the Barnfield Theatre in Exeter (and a workshop) and the B Bar in Plymouth. We're also at the Roundhouse in London on March 15th.

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