Big Band of the Week – New World Outreach Jazz Orchestra

In 2014 the idea of starting this big band came to trumpeter Ron Rolling after an inspiring performance by students from John Lamkin II’s B Sharp Academy. Rolling went to another trumpeter he had known since the mid-‘90s at Morgan State University, Terrance Gallop, saying, “We’ve got to put a band together to pass this on to the youth.” The trumpeters started the New World Outreach Jazz Orchestra (NWOJO), which became an incorporated non-profit, with both adult and youth big bands.

You will notice that “Outreach” is NWOJO’s middle name. “It’s all about promotion and preservation of jazz,” says Rolling, adding, “We are trying to instill in youth the world of big band jazz, ensemble playing and improvisation.” The band’s outreach mission explains why so many of their concerts are in Enoch Pratt Free Library and Baltimore County Public Library branches. The band has also performed at the Arch Social Club, VFW halls, colleges, churches, banquet halls, apartment buildings and a recent political campaign benefit. This summer the band is running a weekly jazz workshop for youth at two locations in Baltimore City from July 7 through August 11.

When asked what makes this big band distinctive, Rolling answers that a lot of the players are music educators or college students striving to be teachers and that a lot of mentoring and talking shop takes place in rehearsals. Rolling cites funding for equipment and compensation as challenges but, unlike for many other big bands in our area, personnel is not a challenge. Rolling works from a large rolodex of about 75 names. He emphasizes that, in picking personnel, he and Gallop are looking not just to fill the seats with good players, but to fill them with people who have a community-oriented mindset.

Here is NWOJO’s performance schedule for the next few months: July 21 at Waverly Library; July 28 at Northwood Library; August 4 at Waverly Library (youth band); August 11 at Park View (senior) Apartments in Woodlawn (youth band); and October 13 at Owings Mills Library (Back to School concert). You can find videos of the band on Facebook and Youtube.com. You may also want to read our 11/28/17 review of NWOJO’s dynamic Fall Harvest concert at the Waverly Library.

This article continues our series on area big bands — if you missed any of them, you can catch them here at Big Band of the Week.