NYO Inspire is the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain’s game-changing inclusion and access programme, which provides free orchestral opportunities for teenage musicians playing at Grade 6 standard. At the heart of the programme is the power of peer inspiration and learning; NYO believes teenagers can gain so much from open exchange with fellow teenage musicians.
The objective is to offer dedicated teenage musicians the chance to have a breakthrough experience through NYO Inspire, both as musicians and audience members. Within this, the focus is on supporting and empowering musicians underrepresented both in NYO and in the professional orchestral sector, which is why applications are open exclusively to Black and minority ethnic (BME) musicians, or musicians who are state-educated or home-schooled. This way the programme will be able to provide unparalleled orchestral opportunities to those with the greatest need. The organisation seeks to change the fabric of the orchestral sector; progress is affected by opportunity, and by engaging with these teenagers NYO is investing in the future leaders of classical music.
In the last few years, the NYO Inspire programme has grown exponentially as a response to being heavily oversubscribed. The number of musicians taking part in the programme has grown from 691 at the onset, to over 1,000 in 2019, and instrument-specific ensembles have been created this year to cater to the huge demand. For the first time, every music service and music education hub in the country will be invited to nominate musicians whom they feel need the opportunities the most, in the hope that the NYO Inspire Orchestra will diversify to become a more accurate reflection of the UK population. The National Youth Orchestra itself has increased its intake of state-educated musicians from 30% in 2008 to 53% in 2019.
On 20 November 2019 conductor Gustavo Dudamel will lead NYO Inspire musicians in ‘Tuning into Change Orchestra’, a combined initiative with Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning and Los Angeles Philharmonic, culminating in a public performance at the Barbican. The Venezuelan Maestro is globally revered as a champion of music education for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and he will give the NYO Inspire musicians and musicians from Youth Orchestra Los Angeles an incomparable orchestral experience in a top London concert hall; something usually only accessed by professional musicians. The project is part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel’s three-day residency as Barbican International Orchestral Partner. At the heart of these regular residencies is a creative learning programme that brings together young musicians from Los Angeles and the UK.
Sarah Alexander, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the National Youth Orchestra says: ‘We take our responsibility as the UK's national team very seriously: we hear time and time again from teenagers across the country when they come into contact with us that NYO is the orchestra that represents them. And this means making sure that we are truly reflective of the UK's teenage population: teenagers need to see people like themselves in their orchestra, so they have permission to be brilliant.
‘NYO Inspire helps to level the playing field for those young people whose ability is impacted by their opportunity: state-educated and Black and minority ethnic (BME) musicians who we know are hugely underrepresented in the sector as a whole. NYO Inspire instils these teens with a confidence and a fire in their belly to go out and share their newfound skills with others in the sector, to set new goals and progress in their music making, and realise that they too could perform at the highest level. They then bring some of the NYO passion, dedication and drive back home to their local youth orchestras, Saturday music lessons, and school music activity.
‘With only 10% of our funding coming from Arts Council England, our community of supporters understands that NYO is raising money for a cause: giving as many aspiring musicians as possible the chance to progress to the highest level of musicianship in spite of declining music education provision across the UK. NYO Inspire is our way of supporting classical music's future musicians and leaders on their musical journey, and ensuring these leaders represent the diversity of the UK population as a whole.’
The positive social aspects of the programme are undeniable – participants discover relatable teenage role models and meet other like-minded enthusiastic musicians from across the country. Through working closely with NYO musicians and tutors the teenagers visibly grow in confidence, leadership and musical ability. At a time when the future of music education looks bleak, the company has undertaken an ambitious expansion through a social action model, whilst managing to maintain the very highest standards of musicianship.
Gerard Booth, Head of Service, Oldham Music Service, says: ‘Over the last five years, NYO Inspire has done exactly what it set out to do with a number of students from Oldham Music Service and inspired them to pursue ever more ambitious goals and musical dreams. Players always return from courses ‘buzzing’ from their experience and a number of them have now gone on to study at leading conservatoires often, in no small part, because of the NYO Inspire programme. The programme is a fantastic initiative – long may it continue!’
For more information, visit: nyo.org.uk/inspire
‘I will remember it for the rest of my life as a turning point in my musical journey.’
Megan, NYO Inspire musician