Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 18.58.41Young musicians celebrating twenty years of performing have hit the right note at a prestigious contest, scooping first prize.

Durham County Youth Big Band, which has been wowing audiences across the UK and Europe since 1996, took the honours in the Great North Big Band Jazz Festival, an event which drew more than 30 acts and hundreds of performers.

The band, 25 young people, between the ages of 14 and 18, came out on top in the youth category, seeing off the challenge of six other jazz ensembles from across the country.

It is the only act to have taken part in the festival every year since it was first staged in 2003.

The young people performed a varied programme at the event, including ‘Durham Sambassador’ a number that was written especially for the band by top British jazz trumpet player Steve Waterman, to mark its tenth anniversary in 2006.

Judges described the performance as “a great piece played with passion and skilful execution” and “a pleasure to hear.”

The band is one branch of Durham Music Service, which is part of Durham County Council’s Education Development Service.

As lead partner in the Durham and Darlington Music Education Hub, the service teaches over 14,000 students each year in over 340 schools across the region.

Shaune Eland, Durham County Youth Big Band’s musical director, said: “The opportunity to not only compete but to hear and meet other young musicians from around the country was an invaluable experience for the young people.

“So to go on and win was the icing on the cake and is just reward for the band members whose talent and hard work is second to none.”

The band mainly play jazz music on a range of instruments from saxophone, trumpet and trombone, to piano, bass guitar, drums and percussion.

Over the past 12 months it has taken part in concerts across the North East and has also toured in Luxemburg, Holland and Germany.

The young people are currently preparing to take part in the Durham Music Service Sage Showcase concert as well as the Darlington Jazz Festival where they will be led by Sebastiaan de Krom from the National Youth Jazz Orchestra academy band.

The competition at the University of Sunderland on Sunday 6 March attracted 32 acts and 700 performers.