Olly Chalk

Award: Peter Whittingham Development Award

Year: 2017

Genre: Jazz

Location: West Midlands

Website: www.facebook.com/ollychalkmusic/

Olly Chalk was born in Bury St. Edmunds and grew up in the peaceful surroundings of the Suffolk countryside. In 2012, he received the Leverhulme Scholarship to study Jazz Piano at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and later graduated with a First Class Honours Degree. 

Whilst studying at music college, his teachers included John Taylor, Liam Noble, Hans Koller and Mike Williams. He also attended lectures and masterclasses with Mark Turner, Steve Coleman, Dave Liebman, Joe Lovano and Kenny Garrett. During this time, Olly had the good fortune of sharing a stage with the likes of Dave Holland, Nate Smith, Jeff Ballard, Elliot Mason, Jeff Williams, Stan Sulzmann, François Théberge and many others.

A dedicated and highly proactive musician, Olly frequently plays at venues around Birmingham such as Symphony Hall, The CBSO Centre, Town Hall, The Spotted Dog, The Hare and Hounds, The Lamp Tavern, The Jam House,  Cogs Bar, 1000 Trades and the Eastside Jazz Club. Around the UK, he has played at The Apex, The Hunter Club, Snape Maltings Concert Hall, The Williamson Art Gallery, The Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds College of Music, The George IV, The Butterfly & Pig, Duke’s Bar, The Future Inn Bristol and Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Abroad, he has played at the Zig Zag Jazz Club, Berlin and in venues in Stockholm and Helsinki. Olly plays regularly with some of Birmingham's greatest, up-and-coming creative musicians such as Christos Stylianides and Josh Schofield and is a sought-after sideman. He is also a part-time promoter and is actively involved in putting on gigs and concerts around Birmingham. 

Recorded in January 2016, Olly’s debut album 'MOUTH' is a unique exploration of the large ensemble. Alongside Olly on piano is an impressive line up of four saxophonists, two trumpet players, one trombonist, two double bassists and two drummers. He hopes to revisit this project in the near future.

Having written over sixty separate works, Olly is a prolific and studious composer. His choral work ‘The Stream’ (with text by Charles Simic) was debuted by the Via Nova Choir (and Percy Purseglove on flugelhorn) at the Adrian Boult Hall in April 2016. A few weeks later, he premiered a multi-sensory, cross-disciplinary suite ‘Prometheus’ at the Old Joint Stock Theatre - an adventurous project that included an 11 piece ensemble (featuring recorder, flute, oboe/cor anglais, bass clarinet/tenor saxophone, trumpet/flugelhorn, trombone, violin, cello, double bass, piano and drums) and live, improvised visual displays by artist Jake-Andrew Nason. 

Later in 2016, Olly established his Trio with the London-based Sam Ingvorsen on bass and Gwilym Jones on drums. After writing a complete set of new music, he organised an entirely self-funded tour for Spring of 2017; this tour included dates at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Bristol Future Inn and Symphony Hall, Birmingham. Citing influences such as David Binney, Tim Berne, John Escreet, Ambrose Akinmusire, Pablo Held, Steve Lehman, Matt Mitchell and Einojuhani Rautaavara - the Olly Chalk Trio blends explosive improvising with intricate, daring and emotive compositions.

As part of a new tour, his latest project: ‘Scathed Citizens’, features internationally renowned New York musician John O’Gallagher - one of the most innovative alto saxophonists alive today. Drawing from techniques used in traditional Japanese music and 20th Century classical music, these new works explore themes such as science fiction, hope, anxiety and dystopia. Including dates at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, The Spotted Dog, Symphony Hall and The Green Note, the tour will occur in January 2018 and will culminate in a studio recording at the prestigious Fieldgate Studios, Cardiff - this tour and recording will be supported by Help Musicians UK.

Olly has been a passionate educator for the last six years and teaches students of all ages and abilities at his home in Moseley. In his spare time, he likes read, cook, go out to gigs, socialise, take pictures on film and spend time with his cat 'Bowie'.