The Jazz Jumpers have only existed as a group for about two years, but they’ve already got several notable accomplishments under their belt. They’ve been invited to perform at the Manitoba Music Conference and other community events, and they were the first ensemble to be nominated as a group for the NUFSICISUM Youth Leadership Award. If you live in Winnipeg you may have heard them on their Classic 107 radio debut in 2019, or performing Christmas carols at a local shopping mall, but you may not know how this group of dedicated, talented young musicians went from being classmates to bandmates.

It all started in January of 2019, when the Grade 6 students of École Regent Park School were invited to participate in the Manitoba Band Association’s annual Solo and Ensemble Festival. The students of Vanessa Nowostawski – or “Mme.,” as she is known to her students – began assembling themselves into groups; among these groups was one consisting of six enthusiastic students who devoted themselves to rehearsing and preparing their selection.

The fledgling group was soon invited to perform on the radio to help promote the festival, an experience that was described as “exhilarating” by one group member, and something that they all agree has been one of their most memorable experiences to date. Following the radio and festival performances, the ensemble grew from six members to eight, and they began to prepare for their next performance at the school talent show. It was at this point that they knew they had to continue making music together, and so they officially became the Jazz Jumpers. Their current roster is made up of eight students, all in Grade 8: Brayden, Yasmin, Izac, Abel, Victoria, Yzabelle, Jonas, and Ymmanuel.

While they’ve been sidelined by the COVID-19 restrictions, the group remains optimistic that they’ll be able to make music together again soon. Izac describes this period as “a bump in the road for Jazz Jumpers,” and according to Yzabelle, their plan is to keep in touch electronically and practice on their own as much as possible. And although they don’t yet know what’s next for their group, Victoria tells us that whatever it is, “I’m sure we’ll have a great time planning and preparing for it.”

Over the years, the group has learned a lot about leadership, collaboration, and the importance of music education. Here are the Jazz Jumpers in their own words, with some of the lessons they’ve learned and advice for other youth:

On Leadership

Leadership means “…being able to take control of the situation or being able to listen to others and yourself.” (Victoria)

A leader should “have many ideas and always support other ideas,” be a good listener and try to help others. (Jonas)

“To me, leadership means helping and being a good example to others.” (Brayden)

“For me, leadership means taking responsibility and help[ing] people.” (Abel)

“Good leadership to me is the act of leading a group with respect, responsibility and courage while considering the thoughts, opinions and suggestions of everyone in the group. A leader isn’t someone who is [more] superior than the others in the group, but someone who is able to take on the amount of responsibilities a leader must carry with his/her own shoulders while keeping a steady balance between everyone in the group. Another quality in my opinion that would make and show a good leader would be that they continuously have thoughts of how they could be a better leader, which would show how much they care about their group.” (Yzabelle)

On Lessons Learned from the Jazz Jumpers Experience

“I have learned that even if you’re not sure of yourself, with lots of time and effort you will eventually get better.” (Brayden)

“Anyone can be leaders as long as we do our job.” (Jonas)

“Always be aware that people will look up to you so you must be a good example.” (Izac)

“Always seek advice when you need it.” (Victoria)

“I’ve learned how to work together as a group. Yes, we have Mme but she mostly just gets us places to play and helps us learn the music. The rest we make decisions that we want to do as a group.” (Yasmin)

On Music Education

“I think it’s important to have music programs at school because it’s fun, but also because it teaches kids to be more responsible and disciplined… Also because it gives people more options for what they want to be when they grow up.” (Ymmanuel)

“I personally think it’s important for students to have music programs, so that they could find, try and decide on what interests them to do for their upcoming future.” (Yzabelle)

“I think that it is very important for students to have band programs because music is fun, makes you happy, and opens lots of opportunities.” (Brayden)

“I think it’s important because it gives kids another skill to work with in life and maybe for a future job.” (Abel)

“It’s definitely important for students to have music programs at schools because music can make a great impact on children’s lives.” (Victoria)

“Yes, I believe it is very important to have music programs, because it’s very good for our brains. You also learn how to work as a group and to listen.” (Yasmin)

“I think it’s important for students to have music programs at school is because it’s a one in a life time chance to play a different instrument… and it’s very fun to do it.” (Jonas)

“Music can be anything from a break from work to getting through a tough time.” (Izac)

On Starting an Ensemble

“Go for it! It’s good for students to take on a leadership role early so they can develop it for the future, and it’s good for students to work in a group as it will help develop their leadership skills and social skills.” (Abel)

“Always lend a hand for those who need it.” (Victoria)

“Make sure it’s with people you like being around… and [who] you can work with.” (Yasmin)

“Don’t give up, because there is always room for more celebrities.” (Izac)

“Some advice I would give to students that are interested in forming an ensemble like the Jazz Jumpers and taking on a leadership role would be to stay calm and collected, learn at a steady pace, be considerate of everyone in the group, don’t get ahead of yourself and never act overly superior than others in and outside the group when it comes to your knowledge of music.” (Yzabelle)

“My advice is to listen… you should always listen to what other people say.” (Jonas)

“I would say that don’t worry if there’s arguments about what songs to play or other stuff, because that’s usual. Also, if you’re not doing well at the beginning don’t worry because no one is good right away.” (Brayden)