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National Open Youth Orchestra partnership: performing together as a creative community

The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama’s partnership with BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW) and the National Open Youth Orchestra (NOYO) brings new possibilities for local young musicians aged 11-25 years.

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Published on 20/03/2024

The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama’s partnership with BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW) and the National Open Youth Orchestra (NOYO) brings new possibilities for local young musicians aged 11-25 years.

Reflecting the College’s focus on accessibility and inclusion, it aims to address the systemic barriers that so many young disabled people face and offers the musical opportunities available to their non-disabled peers through ensemble training and becoming a part of the RWCMD community.

​​​‘RWCMD lead the way in demonstrating that the learning from NOYO can ripple outwards to make music education more widely accessible.

Talented young disabled musicians are just as deserving of music education as anyone else and the profession would be a poorer place in future without them. We are hugely grateful for the wonderful and pioneering work of our partners RWCMD and BBC NOW.​​’​​
Doug BottNOYO Artistic Director

Integration within RWCMD’s educational music programme

Of the five NOYO Ensembles across the UK, the Cardiff NOYO Ensemble is leading the way in being the first to integrate it within an educational music programme. When students become a Cardiff ​NOYO ​Ensemble member, they also become a member of Young RWCMD, rehearsing and performing in the same community as the other College students, with access to the same teachers, resources, and support for future musical aspirations.

‘So much of the music education sector is based on a ‘one size fits all’ model, and many young disabled musicians are excluded from accessing opportunities because of the instrument that they play, or the way in which they learn and interact with music,’ said flautist and RWCMD student Rhianydd Davies, who used to play with the National Open Youth Orchestra in Bournemouth and is now Assistant Music Leader at the Cardiff NOYO Ensemble.

‘NOYO provides a much-needed opportunity for young musicians to collaborate with others in an inclusive and creative environment where they can develop their own skills and ideas and realise their full potential. The four years I spent playing with NOYO have been invaluable to me, both on a musical and personal level, and it’s a real privilege to be part of facilitating this opportunity for musicians in Cardiff.’

Creating an artistic democracy - performing together as a creative community

The partnership began in September 2023, bringing in five NOYO musicians, and has been a great success as a reciprocal learning experience for both NOYO students and the College community as a whole. The musicians are now working to get ready to perform in public and becoming a part of the existing work of the College’s Junior Conservatoire.

Violinist Josh, who is in his first year with the Ensemble said, ‘joining the Cardiff NOYO Ensemble has opened the door to many opportunities, especially working with professional musicians. I have particularly enjoyed the chance to have professional players from BBC NOW sitting next to me, playing alongside me. My musical knowledge has increased and my musical and personal confidence has grown.’

Prior to the launch of the partnership, RWCMD conducted a College-wide accessibility audit, looking at every aspect of its output, including its public-facing performance programme, accessible facilities, and approaches to inclusive programming.

‘Our partnership with BBC NOW and the National Open Youth Orchestra has had a great impact on our strategies, acting as a catalyst for institutional change and fuelling team collaborations across new and existing strands of our work.

It’s supported us to create a systemic structure, enabling our ambitious ideas to become reality, and allowing all our musicians to experience the beautiful democracy of a creative community, coming together as an integral part of this school of the performing arts.

This sense of community is what has defined our ensemble work on Saturdays as part of Junior Conservatoire, and there is real scope for those who identify as disabled and those who don’t, to be creative with music and play together.’
Kevin PriceRWCMD Deputy Director of Music

Nurturing and exploring talent development in a welcoming environment

In the College’s 75th birthday year, this partnership work is exploring talent development within the Junior Conservatoire repertoire, so these students can be closer to NOYO musicians, to develop and create music together at the weekends.

‘After a lifetime performing at the highest level, I am only too aware of the lack of musical opportunities that young disabled people face. NOYO is leading the way in how this should and can change,’ said Andy Everton, NOYO Ensemble Cardiff’s music leader.

'In our NOYO Ensemble, we focus on creating a welcoming, non-judgemental environment where a meaningful musical experience can take place. We arrange our music for the diverse group of disabled and non-disabled musicians we work with, and it’s influenced by their own creativity.

Some read notation, others don’t or are just beginning to learn. With modern technology and some thought, none of this needs to be a barrier to playing in an ensemble.

What strikes me most is that players of different ages, from different backgrounds, and with different access needs, can all come together through the power of music if we create an inclusive environment. This should be a lesson to everyone.’
Andy EvertonNOYO Ensemble Cardiff’s music leader

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