I have been a member of Young Sinfonia for four years now, and in that time, I have improved a great deal as a musician, due to the musical activity and education provided.
Young Sinfonia (YS) presents a fairly unique opportunity for teenagers to be part of a higher-ability classical orchestra, and for someone who has a great interest in and passion for classical music, it is completely transformative!
Young Sinfonia has a very receptive atmosphere, and at rehearsals you are surrounded by friends your age who are equally enthralled by classical music. I play the violin, and after joining I have made friends with cellists, French horn players, oboists, percussionists, and many others. Playing together with them as part of Young Sinfonia has strengthened our connections, and this cooperation is standard in the Young Sinfonia community.
Young Sinfonia is based at Sage Gateshead, with rehearsals on most Saturdays, but on occasion we have trips elsewhere. Recently, we have travelled to the Lake District and Doncaster, although previously we have travelled further away, including York, Berwick, the Isle of Skye and Germany. During these trips, Young Sinfonia provides us with the opportunity to perform in concerts, which helps us to develop confidence and belief in our own abilities, as well as demonstrating to audiences how great Young Sinfonia is.
Another important aspect of Young Sinfonia is that you often meet people who are veterans in the classical music world, and therefore it is possible to establish useful connections. Every April, Young Sinfonia has taken part in a side-by-side rehearsal with Royal Northern Sinfonia (RNS). This allows the young musicians in Young Sinfonia to discover more about what it is like to be an orchestral musician later in life, and the RNS members provide useful advice during our rehearsal, which has improved our playing. I even had the chance to sit next to RNS’s past leader, Bradley Creswick.
Not only can we interact with RNS members during this April side-by-side, but some of us are fortunate enough to have lessons from them. In Sage Gateshead’s CAT programme, I am taught violin by Iona Brown of the first violins, and Lucien and Ailsa are taught by Marion Craig of the trumpets, to name a few examples. This additional tie between Young Sinfonia and RNS is crucial, because the standard of their musicianship is extraordinarily high, and through their lessons YS members receive the most brilliant advice on their playing. The rate of improvement under their teaching and supervision is, in my opinion, astonishing.
Despite the fact that our new conductor, Karin Hendrickson, has only been with us for one year, she has had a very significant impact on Young Sinfonia. As the Deputy Conductor of RNS, many of us in Young Sinfonia would agree that she has improved our sound and technique, and has worked very hard in coaching us, all the while keeping our musical journey together fun. I would say that she has provided a source of motivation for the orchestra to keep improving as musicians too.
RNS performs a very large number of concerts at Sage Gateshead, and a good number of YS members attend them regularly. Not only do the concerts further enrich our own classical musical spectrum, but the orchestra is an example of what Young Sinfonia should aim towards – the listening between the sections; having your eyes peering above and not at your music; and their tight, cohesive playing as a unit are all technical elements that we can see during their performances, and are targets for improvement during YS rehearsals.
RNS also has concerts aimed at children (Classics 4 Kids and Baby Sinfonia), and Young Sinfonia has run with this idea too, hosting its own kids’ concerts with repertoire aimed towards showing little ones how fun and exciting it is to play music, and inspiring them to become involved and to play a musical instrument. I feel that by doing the kids’ concerts, it is almost like we are raising a new generation of young musicians who will take our place in the orchestra.
In addition, as a young musician myself, it is easy to connect with these new young people, and this makes the kids’ concerts a really enjoyable experience and also quite gratifying, especially when seeing some of them getting really into classical music and telling them that they could be back in the future to play in Young Sinfonia.
It is really difficult to quantify just how much Young Sinfonia has meant to me, because it affects you in so many different ways. However, I really enjoy all the rehearsals, week in and week out, and the friends you make here last a long time!