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Global audience tunes in to our young melody makers

Two NSW primary public school students have won a prestigious jazz composition competition launched to mark International Jazz Day in Melbourne.

Finn Poppleton and James Morrison play trumpet, while Naomi Nogawa-Lewy plays viola.

Jazz jamming ... Flynn Poppleton and Naomi Nogawa-Lewy with James Morrison.

On April 30 the world will tune in to hear the melodies of Naomi Nogawa-Lewy (Year 4) and Flynn Poppleton (Year 6), named today as joint winners of the International Jazz Day composition competition, which was open to all Australian students from Kindergarten to Year 12.

As part of the competition their winning melodies, selected by the legendary Herbie Hancock, have been crafted by Los Angeles-based composer Jon Hatamiya into an arrangement that will be the theme of this year’s UNESCO International Jazz Day in Melbourne.

Naomi and Flynn and their parents will travel to Melbourne to watch their music played and meet with Hancock, who is co-artistic director of the event.

To mark their achievement International Jazz Day co-artistic director James Morrison presented the students with the prepared arrangement on Friday and held an impromptu jam session with them at the department’s Arts Unit in Lewisham.

Mr Morrison said it was a tribute to the two young students that they had beaten much older, more experienced entrants.

“There was supposed to be just one winner, but Herbie Hancock came to me and said they couldn’t decide and so we changed the rules so they could share the honour,” Mr Morrison said.

He said music had enormous potential to involve people at all levels of expertise.

“These guys wrote a melody and now are collaborating with people like myself and Herbie Hancock and the arranger; look what can happen with that – we couldn’t do that with, say, football,” he said.

“We couldn’t put Naomi on the field with the world’s greatest footballer, which is the Herbie Hancock equivalent ... with music we can actually collaborate.”

Naomi, in Year 4 at Summer Hill Public School, took about two weeks to compose her melody on the recorder. When Naomi, who has “loved music from the day I was born” heard she had won she “didn’t believe it”.

Likewise Flynn, whose brother Damon is in the Public Schools Jazz Band that will play the arrangement at its Melbourne premiere, thought his mum was pulling his leg.

“I had just come back from camp and I was really tired. My brother showed me the sheet music and I could recognise my melody in the sheet. It was like a dream coming to life. I thought, ‘Herbie Hancock likes my melody, oh my God’.”

Summer Hill Public School music teacher Donna Ross said when she heard about the competition she introduced her students to the concept of improvisation and some simple jazz pieces.

“Naomi came to me with a jazz melody she had worked out on recorder,” she said.

“I was very impressed with the sophistication and musicality of her melody and we entered it into the competition. She has a natural instinct and feel for jazz.”

Flynn was in Year 6 at Newtown Public School when he entered the competition.

Newtown Public School principal Abbey Proud said Flynn was a regular at school band rehearsals even before he started school as he would come to watch his older brother play.

Ms Proud said his music teacher, Harri Harding, considered Flynn to be a “true musician”.

“He is the most exceptional student Harri has worked with and his passion and commitment to music runs deep,” Ms Proud said.

The International Jazz Day composition competition was jointly organised with James Morrison and the Department of Education’s Arts Unit.

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