We are so delighted to share the news that NYO’s project celebrating and lifting up the voices of Black composers has won a UK Youth Award.
The Coca-Cola Inspiring Inclusivity Award was awarded to the Mighty River project in recognition of the young people at the heart of NYO, who came together in July 2020 to share what they cared about through music: as #BlackLivesMatter trended across the world, our teenagers reached out to us to tell us this was a subject we could not ignore; a subject they wanted to address head-on through the medium they care most passionately about, orchestral music.
The result was NYO’s Mighty River project, imagined and curated by the musicians in the orchestra, and titled after an incredible piece of music of the same name by Belize-born British composer, Errollyn Wallen. The project was a week-long open space for conversation, taking a deeper dive into music by Black composers with the aim of exploring, learning and sharing music by a more diverse range of music, to readress the imbalances in the world of orchestral music but also to express their feelings about the unequal society we all live in.
Over workshops in small groups, and webinars from guest speakers, we forged a space for listening, a space for learning, and a space for speaking out. Our community of young people wanted to educate themselves and raise their voices in support of racial equality, understanding there is work to be done, but knowing that as individual musicians playing their part in a collective orchestral whole, every person has the power and responsibility to make a difference.
Through these conversations and the music researched and highlighted by the young people in our community, everyone was able to be more alive to a wider range of viewpoints and stories, and felt equipped with an understanding to foster a more equal way forward in the orchestral music sector. Diversity in orchestral music is absolutely central to this generation of young people, the future they want, and the future they hope to forge together.
At the awards ceremony held online this evening, NYO violinist Betania Johnny picked up the award on behalf of the organisation and the musicians who helped shape the project, saying: ’This means such a great deal to us, we managed to break any stigma for only adults being able to lead any kind of workshop or community led project and shows that anyone can be an ambassador regardless of age. This is just the beginning, we can’t wait to continue to champion equality in orchestral music and in society as a whole in our work in the future.’
You can see the music shared by NYO musicians on the hashtag #NYOMightyRiver