Our own Secondary School Captain, Harley Coleman, has just returned from a tour of the United States with the Wollongong Conservatorium Jazz Orchestra. SCAS Media caught up with Harley to hear about his journey.

“It all started at a jazz camp in Stanmore Tops,” Harley recalls. “I was in a workshop with renowned Australian jazz musician, Eric Dunan. He heard my playing and said he liked it.”

That night Eric was playing a gig and he asked Harley to come up and play with him. The two exchanged phone numbers afterwards and Harley didn’t think much more about it.

Then a few months later he received a text message out of the blue from Eric. “It said he was going on a tour of the USA and did I want to come?”

That message took a moment to process. “It was really crazy. But I thought, let’s do this.”

This was the first time Harley had travelled by himself on a tour, but it was something he had wanted to do for a long time. “I’m 18. I’m about to finish Year 12. It felt like the right time,” he said. “It felt natural.”

That’s how Harley Coleman came to be touring the USA with a 20 piece jazz band. The list of venues they played includes the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Reno Jazz Festival and Disneyland. They also visited schools in the USA and had the chance to connect with jazz students there.

“The USA – I mean, that’s where it all comes from,” he says. “So it was good to go there and bring our own style.”

You get the impression that Harley is not sure if he believes it actually happened. “It’s been life changing in a way,” he admits. “And humbling.”

The highlight for Harley was a workshop at the Reno Jazz Festival where he had the chance to jam with some internationally acclaimed musicians.

“I won a medal for Outstanding Musicianship there.” Harley shakes his head. “That was pretty nuts.”

Harley is much too humble to call himself a rising star in the jazz music scene. But in a world where bands are big and music is fat (or is it “phat”), you’ve got to be doing something right for people to sit up and take notice.

Want to hear Harley in action? He will be playing at the Big Band Blast with the Australian Institute of Music’s Studio Youth Jazz Orchestra on Friday, June 1, at 5pm, in the Glasshouse Forecourt.