WollCon Jazz Alumni to perform at inaugural Jazz Festival

Sydney Con Jazz Orchestra is just one of the headline acts for the upcoming WollCon Jazz Festival

Since its inception in the early 70s, the Sydney Conservatorium Jazz Orchestra’s (CJO) alumni has featured many of the leading lights in Australian Jazz. Comprising five saxophones, four trombones, four trumpets, guitar, piano, bass and drums, the orchestra features many of Australia’s finest young improvisers, and they are performing at WollCon’s inaugural Jazz Festival.

Among them will be three WollCon alumni Sarah Purdon (trumpet), Cailey Mei Soon (trombone) and Alec Watts (saxophone) pictured below.

Sarah Cailey and Alec

Sarah began the Jazz Program at WollCon as a band member during primary school, later progressing to the concert band, jazz ensemble and then the WollCon jazz orchestra where she was a feature soloist during a performance at the Reno Jazz Festival in America (2018). This year (and now as a Sydney Conservatorium graduate), she’ll be a feature artist at the SIMA International Women’s Jazz Festival.

“I’ll be playing at SIMA in a collaborative group I am in called ‘Motion Quartet’. We’ll be performing original music written by myself and other members of the group. I am also really looking forward to playing with the Sydney Con Jazz Orchestra in my hometown, as it shows my progress as a musician, and allows me to appreciate the opportunities I had when I was younger, while studying at Wollcon. Eric Dunan has had a huge impact on my musical upbringing as he paved a way for me through my schooling years.”

Sarah Purdon

Cailey was recruited from the Smiths Hill High School Concert band when she was in Year 10. A stand-out player of the trombone, she was appointed as lead trombone during the same 2018 American Jazz tour, alongside Sarah and Alec. For all three, the WollCon Jazz program was their initiation into the world of Jazz, and now they’re keen to show how far they have come as musicians.


“Eric scouted me from my high school concert band and was consistently nurturing my musical career through weekly rehearsals, band performances and even a tour to America. I wouldn’t be in the Sydney Con if it weren’t for Eric, I’m very grateful and happy that he continues to spread his love of music through Wollongong.”

Alec Watts

Additionally, Cailey and Alec were both selected as members of the 2022 Australia Youth Jazz Orchestra. “A remarkable achievement!” Says David Theak (Head of Jazz at Sydney Conservatorium and Director of the Sydney Con Jazz Orchestra) – pictured below.

David Theak with Jazz Orchestra members

“We are super excited to be playing the inaugural WollCon Jazz Festival. We have so many students from the Wollongong Con come through our degree over the years, so its a great opportunity to get back to the heartland and show them what we are about!” Said David.

The opportunity for the collaboration between the Sydney Conservatorium and WollCon came about when Eric Dunan was guest soloist at the Big Band Bash recently. The band and Eric connected immediately, and it made sense to do more great work together in the future.

What can audiences expect from the Sydney Conservatorium musicians, at the WollCon Jazz Festival?

“The Sydney CJO will be playing some incredibly challenging repertoire from leading jazz composers, Bob Brookmeyer, Bert Joris, Florian Ross to name but a few. We focus on professional level repertoire that challenges the band as an ensemble, but also allows our great young soloists to be featured.”

David Theak

Director, Sydney Conservatorium of Music Jazz Orchestra

The Sydney Con’s ‘ConVerge’ also performing.

This breakaway group of outstanding soloists from the larger Sydney Conservatorium Jazz Orchestra – ConVerge – will play a set of improvised music that draws on the traditions of jazz from it roots to current trends and beyond. Audiences can expect thoughtful and virtuosic solos from some of the next generation jazz players:

Damon Poppleton – alto sax
Justin Yeo – Tenor Sax
Sarah Purdon – Trumpet
Daniel Enriquez – guitar
Matt Ling – Bass
Joshua Roxas – Drums and Cymbals

Catch ‘Sydney Con Jazz Orchestra’ and ‘ConVerge’ at the WollCon Jazz Festival.

Sunday 17th September, 11am-5pm
Wollongong Conservatorium of Music
Tickets: $15 – $35

Jazz Festival artwork