John O'Neill

Musician Teacher Author


‘John O’Neill has a solid understanding of jazz and how it can be taught. I highly recommend his educational jazz materials’

Jamey Aebersold, internationally renowned jazz educator.

My Teaching Experience

I am a qualified teacher, holding a Postgraduate Certificate in Education, with nearly thirty years experience teaching all saxophones, clarinet and flute, both privately and in schools. My own teachers included legendary jazz saxophonists Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. Since 1985 I have taught saxophone at The Latymer School in North London. Between 1985 and 1990 I was advisory teacher on jazz for the London Borough of Enfield, in which capacity I gave in-service training to music teachers on jazz history and improvisation in order to help them implement the new GCSE curriculum. Between 1988 and 1992 I founded and directed the Enfield Schools Jazz Orchestra. I have taught on jazz summer schools in Spain and the Czech Republic, and on the jazz course at Trinity College of Music, London.

My Approach to Teaching

I teach all aspects of music, including reading, theory, harmony, ear-training and jazz improvisation, paying great attention to what I call the ‘foundation techniques’ of woodwind playing: breathing, embouchure, tone, articulation and posture. It is vital that players form good habits in these areas right from the start, otherwise their playing will never be able advance to a high level. Neglecting these elements at the beginning will mean that the player will have to go back and rebuild his/her technique at a much later stage.

Although my main area of expertise is in jazz, my teaching encompasses many other styles of music, such as pop/rock, bossa nova and classical. I think that the basic requirements for being a good player in any of these idioms are the same: a beautiful tone, an accurate sense of pitch, an ability to articulate and a good sense of rhythm. Musicians who wish to play jazz can learn a lot from trying to play classical music, which requires a much more disciplined approach. By the same token, a classically trained musician may derive great benefit from attempting to improvise or play by ear.

As a multi-instrumentalist who plays soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet and flute, I am well aware of the problems of ‘doubling’, and therefore particularly well-qualified to offer advice in these areas.

Private Tuition

I offer private tuition at my North London home, or in central London (Oxford Circus)  to players of all ages and levels of experience, including beginners. The standard lesson time is forty minutes for adult beginners, and half an hour for children. The lesson time may be increased as the player acquires more experience. Parents are welcome to sit in on lessons. I can also give advice about purchase of instruments to prospective students.

I also offer consultation lessons, lasting between one and two hours, to more experienced players, or to those who feel that they are stuck, or have technical problems that they cannot resolve.

Group Teaching

I am available to teach in jazz workshops or on summer schools, to give master classes in instrumental techniques or jazz improvisation, and to train non-specialist music teachers in methods for teaching jazz. For this kind of teaching I am prepared to travel anywhere in the world. I speak fluent Spanish, and have a good understanding of French, German and Italian.

If you are interested in studying privately with me, or in engaging me to teach in a group setting, please email me at


John O'Neill portrait