welcome to JAZZ SCHOOL UK!

Hi! I'm Nick Weldon, jazz musician and teacher, and together with my partner Andra Sparks and a team of top players and teachers, I'm inviting you to join the innovative programme of jazz learning we have created at the inspiring Shoefactory venue in Rushden, Northamptonshire, England.



Once upon a time it was only by giving up everything to go to college that you could be sure of sustained development in your playing. This is still a great thing to do (if you can afford the time and £9,000 plus per year tuition fees), and we successfully prepare players for college auditions every year. But we know that for many of you, players of all standards from beginner to professional level, this route is impossible, and you are stuck with a frustrating, piecemeal programme of your own invention - backing tracks, lessons here and there with a local player, aimless jam sesssions and hodge-podge recreational summer schools where expectations are sometimes low.

Now there is an alternative - Jazz School UK! All our teaching is of conservatoire quality (and backed by long and varied playing experience). Our focus is on the practical requirements and specific skills of jazz playing, and for this reason we guarantee that when learning with us you will always come away with some insight into your own playing, and, most importantly, with goals to achieve and things to practise. And here's our promise. If you're serious about your playing, we're serious about your learning, whether you're a jazz beginner or a seasoned gigster.



Learning at Jazz School UK is centred around the internalisation and understanding of jazz repertoire. (Why? Because if you asked good jazz musicians through history what they practise, they have usually said 'mostly we just learn tunes'!) So we learn tunes.

But as we learn the tunes together we also have two more very important aims. One is to pass on the 'feeling' of jazz - we are passionate about the music and believe this 'feeling' to be part of a magic sound connection with the world that lies deep at the heart of our humanity. The other aim is more straightforward - through a lifetime of playing, studying and teaching we have worked out a specific set of skills (and related conceptual areas) needed for jazz small group playing, and we are determined to pass them on to you!



We offer individual lessons, workshop days/weekends and regular ensembles throughout the year. Or you can combine these in a more intensive and personalised course, such as our Pathway programme or Foundation Jazz Course.


(Come for as many or as few as you like - single days also possible)

  • Jam Sessions various dates (all levels) A chance to blow through tunes old and new with our excellent house Rhythm Section.
  • Theory Shed Days various dates (all levels) Come and drill some harmony fundamentals through the keys - you won't believe the difference it will make!
  • Beginner/Improvers Weekends January 4-5, April 25-26 and July 25-26 2020. Ideal for players wanting an introduction to jazz improvisation, and also for those with more experience needing to get some easy playing hours in! Guest tutors Dave Lewis, Mark Bassey and Nikki Iles.
  • Voicing and Comping Day July 4 2020. For pianists and guitarists. Dominic Ashworth, Pete Churchill and Nick Weldon take you through the essential techniques required for delivering melody and accompaniment.
  • Big Band Weekend June 27-28 2020 - come and play some great charts under the guidance of star composer/arranger/trumpeter Steve Waterman.
  • Jeff Clyne Improvisation Day July 5 2020 - our annual tribute to a sorely missed friend and master bassist, in which instrumentalists and singers come together for a fresh look at improvisation. Guest tutor Alan Barnes.
  • Summer Long August 21-24 2020 Summer School for intermediate and advanced levels. Nikki Iles, Steve Waterman, Dave O'Higgins, Nick Weldon.
  • Jazz Singers And Accompanists Weekend August 29-30 2020 A glorious weekend exploring jazz song and accompaniment skills. With Pete Churchill, Andra Sparks and Nick Weldon
  • The Shoefactory Band various dates (intermediate/advanced)
  • Organ Grounds various dates (intermediate/advanced)
  • Ensembles

    (these are our regular groups - sign up for a season of 8 monthly sessions)

    gollum 1 (beginner)
    gollum 2 (improver)
    mordor 1 -4 (improver/intermediate)
    bilbo 1-3 (intermediate/intermediate +)
    gandalf (advanced)
    jazz singers & accompanists (improver/intermediate/advanced)
    organ grounds (intermediate/advanced)
    the shoefactory band (intermediate/advanced)


    It's always exciting to receive expert advice on the skill you are passionate about - indeed a chance remark at a one-off workshop or lesson can sometimes open up amazing new avenues to explore. But we believe that the best and surest way to improve is in regular study, which is why, together with the team at Verge, we have put together a number of courses offering exactly this type of programme. The courses are designed for keen adult players of all ages, and will be an ideal preparation for prospective college applicants as well as for all levels of of jamming and gigging!


    For students wanting to follow an intensive course similar to, for example, a jazz degree at a Conservatoire, we offer a CERTIFICATE AND DIPLOMA PATHWAY through 4 levels of learning. Each programme comprises 2 seasons of study, and depending on your level of jazz playing experience and knowledge you can choose from the following programmes...read more

    Foundation Jazz

    The Foundation Jazz Course is a one year introduction (for all instruments) to the essential skills and knowledge needed for small group jazz playing. The syllabus will cover: fundamental jazz repertoire, dominant-tonic harmony, playing with harmonic description...read more

    Individual Lessons

    Individual lessons are an important element in any player's development. They give you a chance to focus more directly on particular issues, be they technical, theoretical or conceptual, and to develop...read more

    Jam Sessions

    Yes, we have a regular jam session! This runs once a month on a Sunday (10.30am- 4.30pm). Bring your own music (or browse our great selection of jazz tunes) to try out with our superb House Rhythm Section! Suitable for all levels. More details on the Jazz Jam page.


    You can find out more details about courses, lessons, ensembles and workshops by clicking on the links in the main menu at the top of the page.

    You can find out what is happening at Jazz School UK on any particular date, or with any tune, group or tutor, at Jazz Days. Use the search box to find what you are looking for.

    The members area for ensemble players is over at www.jazzchoolmembers.co.uk

    Otherwise, if there is anything else you need to know, don't hesitate - call or email us and we'll be happy to help!

    To register interest in workshop days/weekends use this form.

    For course enquiries (Pathway, Foundation Jazz, individual lessons) use this form.

    For ensembles use this form.

    Not sure what's best for you? Head over to our advice page for some of our suggestions, or email us at Jazz School UK.



    Thanks for reading! If you're new to Jazz School UK, we hope to see you soon. And of course, we very much look forward to welcoming back all our regular players for the next seasons. Thank you for such warm feedback about your playing and learning experience with us (see the sidebar testimonials) - we also appreciate the hard work and commitment you have made both in your own musical journey and in helping us to create a jazz family here at the Shoefactory.



    Join our Mailing List now, and get our latest killer Theory Shed chart on Dominant Seventh Expansions!


    the jazz shop

    We have a selection of jazz clothes, books, gifts and CDs at The Jazz Shop.

    finding your way round

    We have a lot of information on the site and know this can be confusing, despite our best efforts! So here's a quick guide to the links in the main navigation menu:

    HOME - the welcome page

    ENSEMBLES - information about our regular playing ensembles - format, dates, tunes, tutors, prices

    WORKSHOPS - information about all our workshop days (theory shed, easter and summer courses, midsummer jazz, voicing and comping weekend, big band day, jeff clyne improvisation day etc )

    COURSES - information about the PATHWAY certificate and diploma course, the FOUNDATION JAZZ COURSE, and courses of INDIVIDUAL LESSONS

    ADVICE - some advice to help you decide what Jazz School UK options are best for you, as well as some more general advice about playing and studying jazz

    ABOUT US - introducing Nick Weldon, Andra Sparks and the fantastic teachers we have here at Jazz School UK, and a brief history of the Shoefactory venue. Also info on local accommodation, trains, taxis, restaurants and directions

    BOOKING - booking and enquiry forms





    "It has been brilliant learning with you and the other Jazz School UK teachers. I have learned much so far and I think that you run a brilliant school. I am indebted to you."




    "Thank you for a fantastic year and for all the help you have given me. I'm loving my time at Jazz School UK, working with great musicians and amazing and inspirational tutors. Really looking forward to next season!"




    "Just to let you know I passed my audition and have an unconditional offer to attend Middlesex University in October.. Yahoo!!!"




    "Can't think of any improvements needed in the programme. Many thanks for what you do."




    "I have learned a great deal, and loved every minute."




    "I've found the formula for this year {1 song in the same key each month and repetition of songs the following month} very successful for me. I have tried to learn the tunes where possible and think that this is such a good exercise."



    (drum parent)

    "Melchie has just been offered a place on the NYJC Summer School (by competitive audition), and is over the moon. It was not only your suggestion to apply, but without Jazz School UK this year he wouldn't have had a prayer of getting in. Thank you again."




    "I really enjoy the ensemble lessons. Thank you so much."



    (double bass)

    "Hard to know how to improve your format - I really enjoy each session and feel I'm really improving. Now all I need to do is shed some of the work and spend more time practising...."



    (baritone sax)

    "Keep smiling!"



    (electric upright bass)

    "Great venue, great hosts and tutors, lovely food and refreshments. Thanks a lot for being there and helping me fulfill my jazz jamming dreams."




    "What a great year. I feel I have at least gained confidence in improvisation. As a result I am now playing in a local big band, which is fantastic. THANKYOU."




    "I think that you have achieved just the right balance over the years, and bringing in different tutors really helps individuals absorption of different teaching methods even if it's the same topic! You have attained an excellence beyond expectations, especially helping mature students. Thank you thank you xxx"




    "Just to say how much I enjoy the workshops and that I've learnt loads - which I hope is becoming apparent in my playing. It's also very sociable, a really nice way to spend the day."




    "Love the course, can't think of anything to improve except perhaps you guys moving further north so I wouldn't have to to drive so far!!"




    "Many thanks for a great couple of days. Returned enthusiastic and full of ideas. Very best."




    "I'm really excited to be involved again next year and I've gotten so much out of the sessions I've done this year. I've now formed a trio with a few guys at work and I've been applying the skills I've learnt from you, Trevor and the other great tutors I've met through your school which has been really satisfactory. Many thanks."



    (bass guitar)

    "What I really like (and need) is the transferable knowledge you and the other tutors give us."



    (bass guitar)

    "Dear Nick, Andra, Trevor and Dave, just wanted to drop all you a quick line to once again thank you for accommodating me on the Easter Beginners Course, I thoroughly enjoyed it! You helped me kickstart my jazz playing. Keep up the excellent work, it is a rare opportunity indeed that you offer us. Best regards."




    "Nick, once again a big thanks to you, Andra and the tutors for a great course. I've certainly got plenty to work on now!"




    "Really enjoyed Saturday. It's a tall ladder to climb but I feel I'm a rung higher after every session…"




    "Thanks so much for the improvers' weekend. It was so enjoyable, and useful, I'm still living off it! In particular, being able to play with Andra singing was the fulfilment of a long held ambition for me."




    "I really enjoyed my time with you all last week, and enjoyed the range of tutors. You have such a slick operation there, everything so well thought through. Playing with others in a situation where there is tuition is a great help, rather than simply muddling along and hoping that nobody will comment on my patchy performance. Many thanks for making tangible opportunities available."




    "I just wanted to say - what a fabulous day it was today. Thanks to you both for everything. I came away hugely inspired. Dave Lewis is an amazing player - a rare and inspirational guy in so many ways - such brilliance in someone so chilled!  You seem to have a knack for finding the best. The outside world and all my worries just vanished for the duration, and you guys somehow contrive to unlock potential I never knew I had. I was trying to think - how could I re-live that experience in future? Of course, one can't except in memory. Honestly, if you could bottle it, you'd be richer than Coco Chanel. But as always, for the best things in life - we have to be there. I'm looking forward to the next one."




    "Thanks for organising a great day yesterday, you made me feel very welcome and at ease. Lovely food as well."




    "With Adam Frost's Guitar Improvers Ensemble we covered a tune in about 1hr which in my present class in London we would spend 10 weeks on! The class, people and standard you have are high and this has really given me a big push to catch up, and I feel I have learned a lot."




    "Just to say again THANKS to you, Trevor and Andra for such an enjoyable and useful weekend – plenty of stuff that they don't teach you in books or anywhere!! Will now have to put things into practice in the Sauron group!!"




    "I just wanted to apologise for running for my cab yesterday without properly thanking you, Trevor and Andra. It was a fantastic weekend! There wasn't a moment when I wasn't learning something, and having a blast at the same time. What's more, I now know exactly what I need to do, and how to go about trying to get better. Who could ask for more? So, to all three of you, thanks! It was brilliant - really helpful, and really fun too!"




    "Just a note to say a big "Thank you" for a great day's learning experience yesterday. Finding out about your Jazz School has been a major milestone in my music learning programme."




    "I would just like to thank you for yesterdays tuition and hospitality. I found the day very enjoyable, enlightening and worthwhile."




    "Just wanted to thank you for having me on the Summer Course. I really feel I learnt a lot from it and I feel like a much better player. I truly don't believe I would be attending University this year had I not received teachings from you. (And going to University for me was a Big Deal!) Many thanks."




    "Thank you for being there and improving my musical life - I may not be the best student but what you do for me is immeasurable. My finest felicitations to you and Andra. Thank you both for being part of my world."



    (sax tutor)

    "It was a joy being part of your Shoefactory set up. You and Andra have created something very special- It's perfect for students and tutors alike. A profoundly creative and welcoming space. Absolutely brilliant."




    "Thank you for a very enjoyable and rewarding Summer School at your wonderful Shoefactory. The teaching was excellent and during the whole week there was a great atmosphere with everyone being very supportive of each other. I enjoyed it immensely and now have plenty of new topics to digest and work on. Little did I know what I was taking on when I started my musical journey!"




    "Got lots to practise. I went on a beginners jazz course at a University ages ago and they started with Mack the Knife and we stayed with it for weeks. I learned more with you in one hour than in weeks on the University course. So that is good!"




    "I played a couple of numbers at the Harborough Jazz jam session today and had SUCH a good time and even got some applause from the audience. My solos were probably not technically perfect but I thought to myself... just go for it and enjoy and...it worked! So, thank you to you, Trev and Andra for the help and confidence you've given me."




    "Bless you! So enjoyed the whole experience … there were moments when I thought I had died and gone to heaven. So much expert help and learning and such lovely fellow students … made it all very memorable. We'll be back!"




    "I would like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to both you and Andra for the hospitality that you showed. Great course of discovery, well run with exceptional hosts."




    "A big thank you for another great year. The big plusses for me are: having a few weeks between sessions to allow the brain to consolidate the day's inputs, working alongside a great bunch of jazz learners with similar aspirations to myself, a well thought through reasonably paced syllabus, learning through playing together as an ensemble and the insights we get into directing a rhythm section. Altogether, a great catalyst for enjoyable learning. I am really looking forward to making more progress next year. Thank you both!"




    "Another triumph for the Weldon/Sparks hospitality, really enjoyed my two days. Was able to mull over the pearls from all three tutors on the way home and live in hope they might sink in. I dont ever remember having such likeable profs at vet college! Best wishes and many thanks"




    "Thanks for a brilliant course - one of the best! Great atmosphere and tutoring. My brain hurts in the nicest way."




    "Thanks for a thoroughly enjoyable three days. I came away feeling that I'd really achieved something....so onwards and upwards!!"




    "Thanks to Nick and all his tutors for their inexhaustible patience with us in putting across more content than in any other course I've been on. Magic! Thanks also to Andra and her team for looking after us over the five days. Everything went like clockwork!!"




    "Thank you both for another fantastic summer school. I've come home with tons of material to work on, as always, but also feeling really pleased with how much I've learned so far. I can't imagine how I could have made the same progress without Jazz School."




    "Just a few words to say how much I enjoyed the your jazz course. Even though it was very intensive, I survived, just. I also think I learnt more in that one week than several of the other recent courses added together.Thanks again!"




    "Brilliant Tutor Band day with Trish Clowes yesterday - what an exceptional opportunity to play that sort of music with such a great artist. "




    "Thank you so much to yourself & Nick for all your hospitality I really appreciate all the trouble you went to with the food, Andra.I enjoyed working with the bands & I feel inspired with loads of ideas from the expert tutoring I received. Also studying in such a lovely environment made it for me. Many thanks again xx "




    "I was so impressed with the course I want to thank you all so much and am looking forward to the summer. I felt so included with my harp and had lots of fun whilst learning heaps! Kind regards"




    "I had a great gig with my sextet on Monday. I even had the presence of mind to use some of Trevor's asymmetric phrase/play-rest ideas in my solos."




    "My concert went well last week, with 60 strong chorus, soprano soloist and jazz trio. I had lots of nice comments about my sparkling piano playing, which I couldn't have done without all the coaching, especially from Nick and also all Trevor's help with my comping. "




    "I just wanted to send a big THANKS to you all for the beginners course yesterday. I think you have performed a miracle by creating such a friendly and personable environment in which we, as students, are encouraged to face the bare-naked terror of improvising head-on! Given that I was only there for one day, and you have such a range of abilities and backgrounds to deal with, I came away much enlightened about the 'black art' and already with much to study. Your teaching has provided me with the direction I was seeking. As a bonus, I also met some lovely people on the course who I very much hope to meet again."




    "Many thanks for an excellent weekend course, very helpful and stimulating me to study more. It certainly pointed me in the right direction and drew attention to my shortcomings! I'll keep an eye on the web site as I would love to attend again next year to carry on the good work."




    "I really enjoyed the weekend, you have an amazing set up and a really great group of tutors."




    "Thanks again for a great weekend. I appreciated your patience and support! I feel like I learned a lot about what I want to do next. Most importantly I learned that playing with other people is more fun than playing on my own."




    "I met some good folk and hope to meet up and find some playing time with them. I am sure I will be back after an interlude to sharpen up my playing. I had a great day and it really renergised my musical sensibilities. Many thanks to Nick and the team."




    Thanks for reading!