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Are you alumni of WYO? Get in touch and share your story!

Ellie Moore (2018)

I played with WYO for 4 years and honestly can’t thank it enough for the amount of confidence and experience it gave me. I’d definitely say that my best memory with the orchestra is when I played the Mozart Clarinet Concerto (mvt 2). It was terrifying but incredibly rewarding, and I loved the experience of rehearsing and being at the forefront of the orchestra. I’m now studying Music at the University of Sheffield and am continuing to pursue my love for performance. I know that without WYO I wouldn’t have the confidence to have reached where I am now.

Amy Thompson (2017)

Hello WYO! It’s lovely to see things going so well for you, and to hear about lots of exciting new projects this year. I miss you very much, and hope you are continuing to provide opportunities for young people to share and enjoy music. Speaking of which, I know that some current WYO members may be looking into conservatoire study. I’d like to use this article to give you a glimpse into what that might involve, and hope that it proves interesting for students and non-musicians alike.


What am I up to now?

There is no typical day! Most academic college lessons take place on Monday (historical and stylistic studies, aural… think A level music, but more interesting)!

Much of my time is spent practising or rehearsing. Aside from that, I love doing outreach sessions in schools and setting up/conducting ‘repertoire sessions’ for our year’s woodwind section. We use the time to play through and work on symphonies that are commonly performed, so that we learn parts well in advance of professional orchestral playing. Recent examples include the Rite of Spring, and Beethoven 5.

For anyone considering conservatoire study, I hope that the timetable shown will give you an insight into everyday life. It’s incredibly important for young people to see what things might be like before taking a leap of faith! Arts are a good example, given the prevalence of stereotypes such as the ‘penniless’ or ‘tortured’ artist. These are not necessarily factual… I am infinitely glad I chose to do music rather than a science degree. Although, if you’re not sure an artistic career path is the right thing, it’s probably a good idea to do something else.


Advice for young people

The last year before heading to Uni/college/the wider world is often especially tricky for people living in a rural environment, in my opinion. We are less able to spread wings than most young people, simply due to the impracticalities of this (travel, mainly). Bear with, and you will soon find yourself in a place where people are full of new ideas and inspiration, and where you will be able to develop your own values and grow as a person.

Amy timetable.jpg

Advice for young musicians:

1.      LISTEN to lots of music! This gives your brain the opportunity to absorb a huge amount of information unconsciously. Choose good quality recordings and listen ACTIVELY. I.e. give it your full attention. Lie down, eyes shut kind of attention. Currently, I’d recommend Joyce Didonato and Thomas Quasthoff (voice), Guilhaume Santana (bassoon) Neil Black and Heinz Holliger (oboe), Romain Guyot (clarinet), Lorna McGhee (flute), Dennis Brain (horn), Hilary Hahn (violin), Natalia Gutman, Jacqueline du Pre, and Steven Isserlis (cello).

2.      Watch masterclasses; they’re free and readily available online. Again, Joyce Didonato comes to mind. Conservatoire masterclasses are often open to the public (for free) or available on YouTube channels… London/Manchester trains are relatively speedy too! You’ll learn roughly the same amount whatever instrument is being played; use all resources possible.

3.       Show your passion! Granted, it’s not ‘normal’ to spend time and energy blowing down a tree trunk with keys, but it’s super cool! Don’t ever start a sentence “you’re probably not interested, but…” when asking friends to play chamber music or, worse, scales together. Show other young people that it’s ok be unapologetic in your so-called ‘geekiness’. Become a sincere member of the ‘I love scales’ movement. I am most definitely that!

4.      Sometimes you’ll be the best in the room, sometimes you’ll be the worst. Always use your playing to lift people up; never to make them feel small, and always continue to push yourself. Never take music for granted. This concert might not be special for you but someone in the room may need the music. They may have recently lost someone, for example, or may simply need reassurance that they are not alone. Let’s have faith, as musicians, that our art can change lives. It must never simply become a ‘day job’.

Joe Davies (2011)

I joined WYO when I was 11, way back in 2008 when Noel Bertram was the conductor. I’d heard about it through one if its feeder groups, Kendal Strings, which was (and still is!) run by Debby Howrie, WYO’s indispensable Violin tutor. The high standard and friendly inclusivity of WYO instantly inspired me to join as many orchestras as I could possibly manage: Cumbria Youth Orchestra soon followed, and I was lucky enough to be awarded places in the National Childrens’ Orchestra and, a little later, the National Youth String Orchestra.

One memory of WYO which I remember fondly was our tour to the Aberdeen International Music Festival when I was in my early teens. To meet so many likeminded young musicians from all across Europe come together was a great experience. It made me realise how special music-making can be, possessing the ability to break language and cultural barriers with ease. Friday nights were always a treat, and not just because of the fish and chips which always seem to prelude the rehearsals!

Having graduated from Oxford University with a music degree in 2018, I’m now embarking on a career to become a professional orchestral conductor. The skills that I have learnt whilst playing in orchestras such as WYO are essential in order to practice this specialism, and it’s one of the many reasons why I’m so grateful for the special time I spent with the orchestra. I’m sure that, in many years’ time, WYO (and the local fish and chips shop) will be as successful as ever.

Joe Davies

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