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4th December, 2017

Guildhall School and Barbican become latest partners for National Open Youth Orchestra

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The Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the Barbican are the new official partners for the National Open Youth Orchestra.

The National Open Youth Orchestra is the world’s first disabled-led national youth orchestra. The School and the Barbican will become a joint training centre for the orchestra, helping to signpost potential musicians aged between 11 and 25, hosting auditions and providing music tuition and rehearsal space to budding young musicians.

Working with their local music education hubs, schools and charities, the School and the Barbican join the Bristol Music Trust as the second major partnership for the orchestra. Bristol Music Trust is working with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for NOYO.

It’s anticipated that the search for potential musicians will start early next year with an audition process in the Spring, ready for the orchestra to launch for Autumn 2018.

The partnership was announced at a parliamentary reception hosted by Bristol Music Trust to launch a new initiative between the Colston Hall, the Barbican and Sage Gateshead to promote accessibility in music education and the wider industry.

The School and the Barbican have over 30 years’ experience of bringing together world-class artistic partners with students and communities in ground-breaking new ways to create inspiring arts experiences for all. Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning supports people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with the arts, access some of the world’s most in demand artists and discover their creative voice. Last year, Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning reached almost 80,000 people.

Chief Executive of the National Open Youth Orchestra, Barry Farrimond said: “It is often said that music is the universal language, but unfortunately a great many disabled people are still left out of the conversation. We are overjoyed to be working with the Barbican and the Guildhall School to deliver the world’s first disabled-led national youth orchestra!”

Together, the School and the Barbican create new routes for people to take part in the arts – from first experiences to higher education programmes and professional training – developing interests, skills, confidence and careers. The School is also the UK’s leading provider of specialist music training at the under-18 level, with nearly 2,500 students in Junior Guildhall and Centre for Young Musicians, which now has six branches across England.

Director of Learning and Engagement for the Barbican and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Sean Gregory added: “We are extremely proud and delighted to be partnering with the National Open Youth Orchestra as the London training centre on this significant and timely new initiative.

“Together, we share a vision and commitment to diversity and inclusion in the arts. From widening access and participation, to providing relevant training and progression routes, including developing a more inclusive environment for the future of conservatoire training, we recognise that this work requires long-term engagement and investment with our local and national partners in order to create truly meaningful and sustainable change. This change needs to start now and today, in order to empower our future artists and enable a necessary step-change in the training and performance environment of tomorrow.”

The National Open Youth Orchestra was given the go-ahead thanks to Arts Council funding following the success of a pilot programme, the South West Open Youth Orchestra, that has enjoyed performances at Bristol Cathedral, the Colston Hall and on BBC Radio 3. This year it was awarded a Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award for its role in promoting learning and participation.

The South-West Open Youth Orchestra was the first of its kind, working with young musicians with additional support needs who play a range of musical instruments, including an accessible musical instrument called the Clarion that can be controlled by the movement of a musician’s eyes. Including disabled and non-disabled young musicians, the South West Open Youth Orchestra has performed new music by composers Dr Liz Lane and Liam Taylor-West.

Bradley Warwick has cerebral palsy and plays the Clarion in the South West Open Youth Orchestra, he says. “Being part of an orchestra is new to me. I love it, and feel a kind of freedom and belonging. Disability should never be a barrier to enjoying music and getting involved.”

Findings of a six-month independent feasibility study into the need and demand for National Open Youth Orchestra, with recommendations for its delivery were also announced at the reception.

Through interviews, desk research, visits and observations with young people, music organisations, disability organisations and families Sound Connections found that a national disabled-led and inclusive orchestra is needed to complement and enhance existing provision. The main findings concluded that the orchestra would:

  • Be a human right
  • Fill the gap for progression routes
  • Create new and innovative art; and
  • Be part of advocacy for disabled young people

Those interested in auditioning can get in touch via the National Open Youth Orchestra website.


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