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The Ivors Academy has revealed the winners of 14 Ivor Novello Awards as part of The Ivors Composer Awards 2020, celebrating exceptional new works by composers writing for classical, jazz and sound art.

British-Bahraini trumpet player Yazz Ahmed is recognised for her approach to jazz composition with an Ivor Novello Award for Innovation. Yazz brings together the sounds of her mixed heritage through her music.

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I hope that through my music I can bring people together, building bridges between cultures, and changing perceptions about women in jazz and people of Muslim heritage.
Yazz Ahmed

The Academy has recognised Yazz for “her unique creative voice that smashes the boundaries between jazz and electronic sound design by drawing on her heritage to create intoxicating musical worlds.”

The Ivors Composer Awards are sponsored by PRS for Music. Winners of Ivor Novello Awards at The Ivors Composer Awards were announced on Tuesday 1 December on BBC Radio 3 during an exclusive live broadcast hosted by Kate Molleson and Tom Service.

Trumpet player and composer Yasmeen Ahmed spoke to Diane Parkes in 2018 about how gaining a fellowship with Birmingham Town Hall Symphony Hall’s Jazzlines was a dream come true for. The year-long fellowship meant Yasmeen, known as Yazz, was supported and mentored to create a major piece of music which has been performed in Birmingham and Bahrain.

A trumpet player from childhood, Yazz has been performing and composing for more than 15 years and the fellowship gave her time to explore her cultural roots through music.

Born in Bahrain, Yazz moved to London at the age of nine and was keen to explore her dual heritage. But competition for the fellowship was fierce. Launched in 2012, the THSH Jazzlines Fellowship programme aimed to support emerging jazz musicians aged between 18-35. Fellows were nominated by industry professionals and they were invited to submit proposals for ambitious new projects they wanted to develop.

“Although I have never lived in Birmingham, I have worked with a lot of Birmingham musicians and that is how the link started which led to the fellowship,” says 35-year-old Yazz.

“I was nominated twice. The first time I got to the final stage but my plan wasn’t quite tight enough and then I was nominated again and it worked out that time.

“The fellowship meant that for a year, between 2014-15, I was given mentoring and support with my project which was to write a 90-minute piece inspired by the folk music of Bahrain.

“It was a brilliant year. It included a research trip for me to go to Bahrain and study the traditional music where I got to watch some private concerts and I recorded the music and brought it back and then used it to make my music.”

Yazz also learnt lots of practical tips during the fellowship.

“Tony Dudley-Evans and Phil Woods of Jazzlines looked after me and advised me on all kinds of things and not just music. Things like budgets and planning. They also put me in touch with lots of really nice people.”

In October 2015 the piece, Alhaan Al Siduri, was performed at Birmingham’s CBSO Centre and the fellowship continued to have its benefits as Yazz was then enabled to take her work back to its roots when she performed it at the Bahrain International Music Festival.

“One of the wonderful things which came out of being part of Birmingham’s Jazzlines was that it gave me access to other networks,” she says. “So I teamed up with the British Council and they gave me some funding to film the concert from the CBSO Centre and we made a documentary in the hope that we could take the piece to Bahrain and the Middle East.

“And then in 2016 I performed the piece again, this time in Bahrain. Performing in Bahrain was a real highlight for me. It was the first time my dad had heard me play and hearing him say how proud he was of me was a big moment in my life.

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I was so thankful to Birmingham Jazzlines and the British Council for making my dream come true.
Yazz Ahmed

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