NYO news


The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain has announced its first ever tour to the USA in Summer 2019, including a debut at Carnegie Hall in New York, cultural exchange with fellow teenagers, side-by-side projects and a performance at the Ravinia Festival, the oldest and most diverse outdoor music festival in the US, with further engagements to be confirmed. The official launch takes place on 11 July with a special reception with the soloist for the tour, violinist Nicola Benedetti.  NYO will continue to accept applications for NYO 2019 until the end of July 2018 to afford the largest number of teenagers to be part of this opportunity of a lifetime.



NYO has also announced that David Warburton MP will chair their Development Board, charged with developing long-term funding strategies and securing the future expansion of the organisation’s work. The member of Parliament for Somerton and Frome is a passionate supporter of classical music, having trained as a composer at the Royal College of Music and worked as a music teacher before pursuing a highly successful business career.  


Dame Liz Forgan DBE, Chair of NYO said: “This is a great opportunity top put the UK’s famous National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain to a world stage and to forge links with other teenage musicians through NYO’s internationally admired model for teenage engagement, and peer mentoring. Everyone in and around NYO will be busy fundraising to support the tour and I am delighted to welcome David Warburton MP to lead our funding campaign."


David Warburton said: “It really is a wonderful opportunity to be able to take part in the process behind taking this extraordinary and inspirational orchestra – and magnificent advertisement for the UK - closer to more people.  The USA tour will not only benefit those many people who will be lucky enough to be touched by their performances, but will also give the performers themselves an experience which will stay with them for life.  I’m delighted to be with NYO at such a crucial time in their development and I look forward very much to joining them as they take these exciting steps forward.”


The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (NYO) believes in inspiring its teenage members with a sense of personal responsibility for giving world-class performances that inspire other teenagers, the future performers and audiences for orchestral music.  Founded in 1948, the organisation has been transformed in the last decade under the leadership of Sarah Alexander OBE.  In 2018, NYO Musicians will volunteer over 1000 hours and engage with 10,000 teenage musicians. As cuts to funding for music provision in schools take hold, NYO Inspire initiatives – which provide targeted pathways for state school students to performance opportunities at the highest level -  are oversubscribed. In 2018, NYO Musicians will volunteer over 1000 hours and engage live with 3,000 teenage musicians. 

David Warburton’s full biography is available here


“Ten horns, seven percussionists, four harps and no fewer than 40 violins: no one puts on a show quite like the National Youth Orchestra, whose annual Proms visit is a reliably heady mixture of talent, joy and all-out energy”  

The Independent


From post-war landscape to an orchestra of millennials

The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain was created in 1948 by Dame Ruth Railton with the aim of giving the most committed and capable teenage musicians in the UK the chance to make orchestral music together to the highest possible standard. Re-formed annually through a scrupulous process of competitive auditions, NYO came together three times a year for residential rehearsals, tackling the most challenging repertoire alongside leading international artists and conductors, and performing to paying audiences in top venues, in this country and abroad – as it does to this day. This very singular output – the world's greatest orchestra of teenagers – addressed the very practical need for an appropriate destination for the UK's most outstanding teenage musicians, so that they might escape their regional isolation and continue their musical development together. It was also intended to provide war-torn Britain with an inspirational vision for the future. The experiment succeeded in both respects. Competition to win a place was fierce and NYO performances were widely feted, touring as far afield as the Soviet Union. 


As NYO matured its output continued to be as singular as ever. Yet, over time, a wonderful breadth and depth of incidental outcomes and impacts were observed. Gaining a seat in NYO led to the creation of musical friendships that helped sustain a lifetime's devotion to music. Extraordinary levels of musical challenge and focused professional support combined with the peer-pressure to excel sent standards spiraling upwards year after year. Leadership skills were discovered and honed. Great achievements led to greater ambitions, professional careers were launched, music educationalists were inspired, and young audience members devoted themselves to orchestral instruments in emulation of the teenage brilliance of NYO musicians. Seasoned professionals found a unique forum in which they could pass on their knowledge and love of orchestral music to succeeding generations. The immediate benefits were strictly limited to 164 top teenage musicians and their audiences; yet NYO's long-term beneficial impact on the musical life of the UK was incalculable, a fact that was acknowledged in 2012 with the award of the Queen's Medal for Music. 


Over the last decade, without ever losing sight of its unique, big-impact output NYO has been developing these 'incidental outcomes' to create a unique, peer-led approach to orchestral preparation and performance. This has enabled NYO to increase its impact on traditional beneficiaries – a seat in NYO is a more life-changing experience than ever before and participants value the impact of leadership skills and confidence gained through volunteering as vital to their development. While NYO’s core output has deepened in its impact, at the same time it is employing the same expertise to bring much-needed benefits to many more teenagers, particularly musicians and audiences from state school backgrounds, who are increasingly disadvantaged relative to young people in private education. In doing so NYO has enabled more state-school and BAME musicians to reach the standard necessary to win a seat in NYO, increasing the social and ethnic diversity of the orchestra. 


The expansion in NYO activity has been highly significant. The NYO of 2008 resembled that of 1948 in that it directly benefited only 164 teenage musicians and their audiences. While the orchestra is still at the heart of everything NYO does, in 2018 NYO plans to give NYO Inspire workshops and performance opportunities (lasting between one day and two weeks) to more than 1000 committed teenage musicians playing at Grade 6 or above, who currently lack opportunities to advance their playing. Over 2000 teenage musicians in state schools will participate in NYO or NYO Inspire Orchestra Play the School musical workshops, and over 3000 teenage audience members will hear NYO or the NYO Inspire Orchestra performing live in their secondary school. 


The culture of NYO has changed from one of receiving, to one of giving: NYO orchestral musicians together give over 1000 days to deliver the NYO Inspire programme, and many find this work as rewarding as giving high-profile concerts. Furthermore, NYO has become integrated into the music education landscape as never before: In 2017 NYO collaborated with 70% of Music Education Hubs, drawing on regional expertise to target NYO musical opportunities where they are most needed. In future NYO plans to improve dissemination of its unique and powerful peer-led approach to orchestral preparation through targeted collaboration with the Music Education Hubs, and improved CPD (continued professional development) for music education professionals. It is early days, but the much-needed positive impact NYO Inspire is having on musical life in the UK was recognised in 2016, when Sarah Alexander was given Association of British Orchestras Orchestra Manager of the Year award; and in the 2018 New Year Honours list Sarah Alexander, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of NYO was awarded OBE for services to music.


A timeline for NYO can be found here.


NYO IN 2018

Equality, diversity and inclusion is at the heart of all the work that NYO does and giving young people inspirational role models and support are the central to NYO’s ethos. The 2018 Orchestra retains its gender balance of recent years, with a small increase in female musicians taking the figure to just over 50%. There are equal numbers of female and male musicians in the trumpet and trombone sections, female principals for horn, trombone and double-bass, as well second violin, cello, flute, bassoon and harp.  This balance of representation is carried through to those with Leadership positions within the orchestra as well as NYO Tutors, the Management and Support Teams and the Board. NYO Musicians are empowered through Think Tank – an initiative that ensures a happy community in the Orchestra –  with a nominated representative from each section which shapes the way the Orchestra lives together, run by the Head of Support. NYO has an exceptional track record for welcoming young people from different backgrounds and faiths and with different needs. Friendliness is at the heart of the culture and the team adapt practice to ensure that everyone can get the most from the experience. NYO currently supports young people with a range of mental health issues, lesbian and gay musicians who are coming out, a transgender musician, a blind musician and a musician with Tourette’s syndrome. Read more about the NYO team here.


The 2018 orchestra comprises 50% from the state sector, 20% from specialist music schools - of which 87% are on government bursaries, and 30% from the private sector - of which 55% are on scholarships. NYO has seen sustained numbers of musicians who identify as non-white, averaging 27% in the last two years, significantly ahead of the 14.6% in the general teenage population. This diversity of intake reflects the success NYO Inspire.  Of the 164 NYO Musicians this year, 43 (26%) have come through this pathway into the orchestra.  31 (19%) of all successful applicants are totally new to NYO, and this year NYO held auditions for over 700 candidates in 11 UK cities.  


“NYO believes passionately in the value of music education for all.  And by all, we mean everyone, not just those already engaged in classical music.  This year over a quarter of the Orchestra has come through NYO Inspire, which shows so clearly the impact that peer role models have in supporting aspiring teenagers.  We also believe, passionately, in teenagers. Through music we can empower the next generation to be brilliant, to challenge the status quo, and to inspire others.  As NYO turns 70 in 2018, it is more collaborative, inclusive and brilliant than ever, a celebration of the founding principles that Britain’s teenage musicians should be taken seriously.”


Sarah Alexander, Chief Executive and Artistic Director

We would like to thank all those fantastic and incredibly talented teenage musicians who have taken part in NYO Inspire. This nomination is for them. In 2018, we are continuing our bold mission to introduce orchestral music to teenagers from all backgrounds and will be connecting with over 10,000 young musicians across the UK. For a taster of what this is about, please watch this short film we made earlier this year.

'I will remember it for the rest of my life as a turning point in my musical journey'

Megan, NYO Inspire Musician


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