Life changing Music for Youth

By Maxine Kwok Adams  -  26 August 2015

This month I had the privilege of listening in on the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain's rehearsal for their yearly highly anticipated Prom concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

It happened to be exactly twenty years after I led the NYO at the Proms in Mahler 3 under the baton of Mark Elder, a concert I still remember with great clarity. The 2015 NYO last night performed Mahler 9 under the baton of the ever-enthusiastic and now titled,
Mark Elder.

Maxine tries to blend in with the NYO...

It was staggering to realise not one of the 165-strong orchestra would have been born when I left (in floods of tears) to become a student at the Royal Academy of Music. I felt a few wrinkles sprout as I watched them perform with the consummate ease of professionals.

The sheer energy and love being displayed by the youngsters cramped onto the RAH stage blew me away.

Having been in the profession now for over sixteen years I've seen my fair share of cynicism and bitterness as comes with any job. How refreshing to be taken back to my teenage years, the excitement of discovering amazing symphonic works for the first time and sharing that love with like-minded friends. Certainly for those in the NYO, a percentage will come from specialist music schools but others like me, would have come from ordinary schools, possibly without much musical scope and therefore have spent the majority of the year feeling like the outsider who has to practise for hours rather than watch the latest TV shows. 

It's been wonderful to see see organisations such as the NYO and the National Children's Orchestra flourish over the years, the standard goes from strength to strength with so many alumni going on to become professional musicians. The biggest success stories surely being Sir Simon Rattle, Daniel Harding and Nicola Benedetti but orchestras over the UK are full of those who benefited from such youth organisations, national or local. Those who didn't go on to study music cite their experiences in youth orchestras as being an important part of their upbringing. I have many friends who hail from that period in my life, some who carried on their musical education and others who veered off onto different paths. One close friend in particular went into the field of banking but still plays the violin in classical and jazz groups weekly.

I myself came from Bromley, growing up through the excellent music system Bromley Youth Music Trust, an organisation offering lessons, numerous orchestras/bands and chamber music. International youth orchestra and band competitions are frequently won, numerous alumni enter the profession, the most well-known being clarinettist Emma Johnson, but BYMT still suffered huge cuts in funding earlier in the year. So many people rallied round to support, understanding the need for this service which provides a solid music education for little or no money to all those who want it. 

Sadly this is happening all over the country and whilst this blog isn't designed as a platform for political change it is hopefully going to encourage us to cherish such organisations that encouraged all of us, whatever background, to discover what we can achieve in the field of music and beyond.

About Maxine Kwok Adams

Fashion correspondent and violinist of the London Symphony Orchestra

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