If you think the 165 musicians dragging their instruments into Poole’s Lighthouse Theatre on April 12 look a little young, you’d be right.
Because they will be the cream of the national crop... the Julian Lloyd-Webbers and Evelyn Glennies of the future. But, says Sarah Derbyshire, managing director of the NCO, unless more local children come forward Bournemouth and Dorset will be under-represented in this elite organisation.
Unless you take into consideration the patchy and occasionally parlous condition of musical teaching in this country, there is no sinister reason for this.
“There are lots of reasons really,” says Sarah.
“Children have lots of choices to make and although we feel that we offer a brilliant musical experience and all of our members do too, we are very well aware there are lots of things that people are juggling.”
She is concerned that there are ‘talented children out there who have never heard of us’.
The NCO has been focusing on connecting more with music clubs, music services, and other music organisations that children might be getting involved in. They want more teachers onside because: “It’s very often through that route they say to young people: ‘Why don’t you think of applying to the NCO as people have such a great time as well as developing their music skills,” says Sarah.
She explains: “It’s quite liberating for young musicians of this calibre to find themselves amongst other like-minded young people but that’s a key thing.
“Playing in an orchestra brings with it the very fact that you’re fitting with other players.
“The part you play is crucial but you can’t do it without other people and they can’t do it without you.”
Young musicians find a lot of encouragement and support from joining, she says. “It’s lovely to see in an instrumental section one of the oboe players doing a solo and their fellow section members being very supportive when they sit down and congratulate them.”
She says that many players forge life-long friendships, as well as going on to join professional orchestras and pursue an interest in music.
The orchestras were formed in 1978 by Vivienne Price MBE and are Britain’s premier symphony orchestra for children, offering talented youngsters aged seven to 14 inspiring training from first-rate tutors and professional musicians with high-profile performance opportunities throughout the year.
Constituting five age-banded orchestras and five regional orchestras, the NCO combines exceptional musical tuition with an action-packed social side, offering children the chance to meet like-minded youngsters.
“Something like 40 per cent of the young finalists in the BBC Young Musician of the Year have been in the NCO,” says Sarah.
“It’s certainly a route for many, it’s the beginning of their journey into a professional career.”
She wants to encourage youngsters and their parents to attend the Lighthouse concert on April 12 where they will hear a host of ambitious pieces including Holst’s The Perfect Fool and Debussy’s La Mer.
“The quality will be amazing,” she promises.