Presenting Roella Oloro
6 showcases/sets of jazz-inspired original music by young composers/Improvers/performers that we believe are representatives of the best future can bring. Here we introduce our first leading #femaleJazzPower rep, Roella Oloro.
Catch her Nov 24 doors open at 2pm: Tickets: goo.gl/2kw53c
When did you start playing?
I’ve always been surrounded by music. There’s a picture of me at 2 years old stood trying to copy what my dad was doing as he was playing on the family piano. However, to pinpoint the moment where I officially started playing piano; I’d say it was around the age of 4
Was Piano your first instrument and do you play other instruments?
I had my very first piano lessons from my mother and soon after progressed to start classical lessons. I took all the ABRSM grades up to grade 8 over the coming years and finished with a distinction. As far as my influences go, I gravitated very naturally towards gospel music. I grew up in Gloucester attending a Pentecostal church. Around the age of 11, I started playing the piano in church and it’s from this exposure that I learnt how to play by ear amongst many other useful skills. Whilst in church, one of my most loved Godfather’s Edward Campbell taught me to play the bass guitar, which I began to take interest in it around the age of 13. In some services, I would be drafted in on bass, piano or sax duties.
Similarly, as a kid I was also inspired by Lisa Simpson’s playing the saxophone and work ethic on the classic American cartoon,’The Simpsons.’ This led me to wanting to play sax as a youngster in primary school. However due to my age and small stature, I was told I had to learn to play the clarinet first. Initially I wasn’t too keen, but I soon began to enjoy it. I then went on to take Trinity College music grades in clarinet and alto saxophone-which I started officially in secondary school- up to grade 8 and finished with distinctions for those as well.
How did you interest in Jazz started and who inspired you?
My interest in Jazz has always been present. I really loved the cartoon series Tom and Jerry because of its authentic 1920’s/30’s Jazz tracks that would be featured as its background music.
The first Jazz and jazz- influenced musicians that I became aware of were, Dave Brubeck (Take Five, King for a Day) George Gershwin (his preludes in particular) and my all-time favourite Oscar Peterson. I was blown away by Oscar’s dexterity, elegance and grace on the piano and the complexity and richness of his chordal harmony. At that time, my love for jazz truly came alive. One of my Music teachers Mr David Sheppard was a great supporter of my interest in Jazz from the moment that I started at Ribston Hall high School- grammar school for girls. I used to really enjoy conversing with him about new Jazz discoveries as well as receiving classical schooling from himself and head of Music Mrs Carolyn Ford. Additionally, Mr Sheppard’s technical prowess and youthful vivacity that he brought to the piano were also incredibly inspiring to me.
Through attending Gloucestershire’s county Jazz Orchestra, I was introduced through the repertoire and other equally minded friends to the music of Chick Corea. I’d say that it was at that point that I became hip to my budding interest in fusion as a genre. During GCSE’s I began listening to and checking out the likes of John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Charlie Parker, Ben Webster, Art Tatum, Tommy Flannagan and another major inspiration of mine Hiromi- an amazing Japanese female jazz pianist. Her technical prowess and agility immediately blew me away. As an aspiring young female pianist myself, it was especially important to see Hiromi representing us and holding her own amongst other global Jazz giants.
Other young pianists who inspired me were two American female piano prodigies named Emily Bear and Umi Garrett.
How was the transition to London?
I am from Gloucester /Gloucestershire originally which I would best describe as a small city in the middle of the countryside.
My monumental move to London in September 2017 on being accepted into Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance has been the complete opposite of my Gloucestershire experience. The first change that took me by surprise was that everyone seemed to be running all the time to get to their various destinations! There’s something to do, to see, somewhere to play, to jam every single day and often running late into the night as well. The calibre of musicians in London is also very high. I was constantly in awe of the music and musicians playing at different jams like Troy Bar and Steamdown, such as David Mrakpor (on every instrument possible), Mansur Brown (Guitar) Oscar (incredible pianist from Poland and Shabaka Hutchings (saxophonist) among many others.
I’ve also met many incredible musical peers through attending musical programme’s for young people. These include Tomorrow’s Warriors and Female Collective; being a student on the jazz course at Trinity Laban, making friends with other conservatoire cats and attending the Julian Joseph Jazz Academy. Julian himself is one of my most-loved mentors. He inspired me in such a way that made me able to connect through Jazz music with a part of myself that I didn’t even know existed.
You are also a talented composer and arranger, how did you develop this ability?
Although I had been creating music since before I can remember, being introduced to the music software Sibelius at 14, encouraged me to experiment properly with composing for larger ensembles. After a challenge from our county Jazz bandleader Peter Martin, I began writing for big band. At 15, I wrote a big band chart named,’ Keep Moving. At 16, I wrote another chart entitled,’Cruisin, which was played at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the 2016 Music For Youth Proms. At 17 following a residential weekend for girls in Jazz led by composer and Baritone saxophonist Issie Barratt, I scored up a big band chart from a chart for small band called ‘No Man’s Land, which was originally a collaboration between a fellow student Claudia Araghrez (tenor Saxophonist) and myself. As I was a part of Gloucestershire’s Youth Wind Orchestra, I also gave writing a concert band chart a try and wrote,’ La Voyage de la Riviere-‘ a river’s journey. The Gloucestershire Youth Orchestra rehearsed on the same night and in the same grounds as the wind orchestra (St Peter’s High School). During my gap year, I had a go at writing an orchestral piece named Noah’s Zoo. We were fortunate enough to perform this tune at the Birmingham Symphony Hall as part of Music For Youth 2017. I had the chance to conduct this piece for the first time in front of a sizeable audience in a concert hall.
I also enjoy writing music for solo piano and am not afraid to explore arranging and composing with different performance forces than what I am used to.
For our festival you are presenting 4 original songs, what are they about?
My interest in Jazz has always been present. I really loved the cartoon series Tom and Jerry because of its authentic 1920’s/30’s Jazz tracks that would be featured as its background music. Similarly, as a kid I was also inspired by Lisa Simpson’s playing the saxophone and work ethic on the classic American cartoon,’The Simpsons.’ This led me to wanting to play sax as a youngster in primary school. However due to my age and small stature, I was told I had to learn to play the clarinet first. Initially I wasn’t too keen, but I soon began to enjoy it. I then went on to take Trinity College music grades in clarinet and alto saxophone-which I started officially in secondary school- up to grade 8 and finished with distinctions for those as well.
Tell me more about the band performing with you?
I will be presenting a quintet as my line up made up of Kaidi Akinnibi ( Tenor Sax) Joseph Oti (Joti, Trumpet), Isobella Burham (bass) Wilf Cameron-Marples (drums) and myself Roella Oloro (piano).
What are your plans for the future?
Although I’ve already been through so much, I know that God still has more in store for me! Receiving a full- tuition scholarship from Berklee College of Music after being a part of the 5-week performance programme there is the ammunition I need to make my dreams of becoming a professional performer and composer a reality. Expect going into the future, more orchestral, big band, concert band work and many other different concepts and perspectives. However, as well as working to achieve, I want to be able reach people globally. To universally have people connecting with the most intimate emotional part of their being that otherwise can be neglected. I aspire to be able to help people experience the healing properties of immersing yourself in good music and to be able to perceive the joy and fulfilment that is the God-given gift to all of us of having it in our lives.