On Saturday 8 August, the National Youth Wind Orchestra come to the Adrian Boult Hall. Fresh from their residential course in Oxfordshire, the orchestra will showcase their hard work over the previous week and aim to spread the word about the benefits of high-quality music making for young people. We caught up with Leonie Minty, a member of the NYWO team to get to know the orchestra a little better and to hear her views on the importance of music courses like this one.
What is the age range of the orchestra and how does this effect the dynamic of the group?
There are approximately 70 young musicians in the orchestra aged 14-21. The spread of ages is great, because the younger musicians have the benefit of learning from the experience of the older ones who in turn either take on mentoring roles or often find that they actually have a lot to learn from the younger ones whose experiences have been different. It’s a real collaboration of shared experience. Each musician brings something unique to the table. The one thing that can be said about NYWO’s age range is that there is an energy and vibrancy in the sound that the orchestra produces that I believe is unrivalled by other wind orchestras in the country, if not the world.
This is a truly national orchestra, how far do musicians travel to be in the orchestra?
NYWO’s young musicians come from all over the UK. We have people from Cornwall, Perth in Scotland, Wales, East Sussex to the Northwest – all over the country. The young musicians come together to create some wonderful music, develop their musical skills and make (what often turn out to be) life-long friendships. One of the young musicians said to me yesterday that “NYWO is home” and it’s certainly does have that family-feel that is so conducive to learning, growing and developing, not just musically, but socially too and the geographic diversity is a valuable trait of this organisation.
How often do you meet in the year?
The NYWO meet twice a year for residential courses lasting approximately 9 days at stunning locations with excellent facilities, NYWO’s young musicians have the opportunity to work with internationally renowned conductors, soloists, tutors and composers. This week, the orchestra have been rehearsing in Oxfordshire and will perform in Birmingham and London at the weekend.
They surely can’t be playing all day, every day? What do the musicians do to relax after a hard day of playing?
Whilst NYWO offers an intensive rehearsal schedule, we also believe the social aspect to be vitally important to the development and well-being of the young musicians. We therefore put on a variety of social events and activities. This course for example – we are currently 5 days into NYWO’s Summer residential course – the young musicians have had the opportunity to take part in rounders, bowling, swimming, football, bing and film night which members of NYWO have enjoyed outside rehearsals.
When they aren’t splashing around in the pool, or chasing after a football what sort of music do they play?
The orchestra covers an extensive and challenging range of repertoire from traditional wind classics and orchestral transcriptions, to arrangements of film score favourites. The players regularly work closely with contemporary composers to perform new works and commissions which frequently attract world-class soloists to perform with the orchestra, so the repertoire is carefully selected to best serve the beneficiaries to expand their musical horizons and expose them to music that will challenge and inspire them and the audiences that come to listen to the concerts. So, this week, the young musicians are working hard on works including Sparke’s A Savannah Symphony, Saint-Saëns’ Occident and Orient and Maslanka’s Give Us This Day.
Who do you have coming in to coach the musicians, and how beneficial do they find being mentored by these people?
In addition to the conductor, ‘instrument specific’ professional musicians featuring names such as Adrian Spillett (CBSO Section Leader and Head of Percussion, Birmingham Conservatoire) to tutor the respective sections of the orchestra on interesting and challenging repertoire and give master classes. British composer, Kit Turnbull will be working with the orchestra on the course this week. The calibre of conductor and tutors coaching the young musicians will positively impact on the opportunity, learning and musical advancement outcomes that are transformative for young musicians’ lives.
How did it all begin for the NYWO?
NYWO was established as a charity in 1986 by Stephen Dodgson, Leonard Salzedo, Andrew McGavin and Robert Montgomery. The orchestra was originally named the British Youth Wind Orchestra when it was first founded in 1968 by founder and clarinettist Eric McGavin.
How important is the NYWO course for these young musicians?
NYWO courses provide opportunities to young musicians to meet and work with like-minded people from all over the country. The opportunities for professional networking in the music industry and playing at such a high level is what young musicians are looking for and what NYWO courses provide. By creating an inspiring environment, NYWO can unlock the potential and develop the talent of the UK’s young musicians to become the next generation of professional musicians.
How important is this level of music education for young musicians and what about NYWO is so special to them?
Access to high quality tuition requires the services of first-rate professional musicians. NYWO recognises the financial and logistical challenges that face the young musicians (80% of whom are school children from a variety of backgrounds) seeking musical tuition that will inspire them. NYWO provides young musicians with an opportunity to access high-quality tuition and NYWO is therefore invaluable in benefitting the UK’s young musicians. What also makes NYWO special is its ability to help the young musicians produce results to which they aspire. Ultimately, access to the very best tuition, in conjunction with professional networks and performance opportunities, the UK’s young musicians can develop their musical skills in an environment that inspires them: This is what NYWO does. NYWO is also one of the very few organisations to encourage conservatoire students to join.
What can be done to further promote music education to more children and how does NYWO feed in to that?
We are delighted that NYWO is set to share some incredible music, played at a very high standard, with Birmingham this Saturday. It is important for national organisations to reach cities like Birmingham, in terms of inspiring both potential orchestral members and audiences and promoting music education. This August sees NYWO address these challenges and, in the process, put on a wonderful music event.
What can people do if they are interested in joining NYWO?
Anyone interested in joining NYWO would be welcome to come along to a NYWO concert to listen to the orchestra. I’ve been sitting in the orchestra’s rehearsals and they are already sounding fantastic so I have high expectations for an exceptional performance at Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham at 7.30pm on Saturday 8th August. Another thing to do would be to check out the NYWO website for details on how to join NYWO.
You can follow NYWO on twitter: @NYWOGB. They are also on Facebook: The National Youth Wind Orchestra of Great Britain (Official).
Tickets and booking information are available here.