As we head towards the new year we’d like to reflect on the last decade of AYO; from worldwide performances to brand new ensembles and working with an incredible community of artists, tutors, staff and musicians. Explore our countdown to 2021 on the AYO website, and look out for our ‘AYO wrapped’ features on our social channels throughout December.

A collage of images taken at AYO performances between 2010 and 2020.

2010: Exploring World-Class Venues | AYO at BBC Proms

Over a decade ago, the Australian Youth Orchestra set off on the International Tour in 2010 under the baton of esteemed British conductor Sir Mark Elder, and alongside solo pianist Alexey Yemtsov and mezzo soprano Ekaterina Gubanova. It marked the 20th tour for the orchestra where they performed across Europe and China in famous concert Halls including Het Concertgebouw, Amsterdam and the Tianjin Concert Hall, Beijing.

“It is impossible not to be inspired and transformed by the touring experience AYO can provide, especially when it includes opportunities to perform in prestigious international venues.” – Colin Cornish, CEO

One of the biggest highlights of the tour was performing at the renowned BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Watch AYO’s performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No.10 in E minor, courtesy of BBC Radio 3.

2011: Presenting world premieres | Carl Vine’s Violin Concerto

For this season, AYO had the opportunity to perform the world premiere of Carl Vine’s Violin Concerto commissioned by the late Hon. Jane Mathews. The orchestra performed this finely crafted work alongside soloist and AYO alumnus, Dene Olding, under conductor Thomas Dausgaard. The concert was part of Sydney Symphony’s ‘Meet the Music’ series at the Sydney Opera House.

AYO violinist Natasha Conrau wrote an AYO blog about her excitement of performing the world premiere.

“I was particularly amazed by a small passage of artificial harmonics in the slow movement; they’re not the easiest thing for string players to execute, but Dene managed to make it sound incredibly beautiful and very easy. How lucky we are to be premiering a work with a musician like him!

2012: AYO’s new image | ‘Raw Talent to Perfect Harmony’

In 2012 AYO had a refreshing brand overhaul including a new look and feel, logo and imagery from design agency Landor. The logo is inspired by the lines and spaces of musical staves and reflects AYO’s positioning of “raw talent to perfect harmony”. Landor constructed two forms for each of the three letters in the identity. The inner letter, which moves and changes, is informal and quirky and represents raw talent. The outer, which remains consistent, is balanced and structured to stand for perfect harmony.

2013: Sharing Australian compositions | Digeridoo virtuoso, William Barton on the International Tour

On the 2013 AYO International Tour, we shared Australian music with audiences across Germany, Austria, The Netherlands and Switzerland. The orchestra toured with a group of internationally esteemed artists: conductor Christoph Eschenbach, violinist Joshua Bell, digeridoo virtuoso William Barton and associate conductor Fabian Russell.

One of our most notable performances was Peter Sculthorpe’s Earth Cry performed alongside William Barton. Sculthorpe’s work is dedicated to the Australian landscape and Indigenous culture, with William Barton bringing the sounds of Mount Isa’s Kalkadunga tribe to life through his digeridoo playing.

“Here we are in Europe…performing on some of the world’s oldest instruments of European culture mixing with the world’s oldest instrument from the Australian Aboriginal people, the didgeridoo.”

Watch the first week of rehearsals in the lead up to the AYO International Tour. Maestro Christoph Eschenbach, concertmaster Glenn Christensen and violinist Yuhki Mayne chat about the experience of touring with AYO and being part of a national youth orchestra.

2014: Welcoming world-class artists | AYO works alongside Ray Chen, Simone Young, James Judd, and Karin Schaupp

AYO attracts some of the world’s leading conductors and soloists to direct, mentor and inspire young players in Australia and overseas. In 2014, the Australian Youth Orchestra welcomed conductors James Judd and Simone Young to lead their two orchestral seasons in Queensland and South Australia.

The Australian Youth Orchestra rehearsing under the baton of James Judd.

We also presented a live-streamed violin masterclass with the sensational solo violinist Ray Chen. Ray also joined us alongside Simone Young at AYO July Season for a memorable concert at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. Our more unique performances for the year included a smaller AYO ensemble with guitarist Karin Schaupp playing a Sculthorpe piece for solo guitar, strings and percussion.

Our more unique performances for the year included a smaller AYO ensemble with guitarist Karin Schaupp playing a Sculthorpe piece for solo guitar, strings and percussion.

2015: Introducing Momentum Ensemble | Momentum Ensemble’s Launch Tour with Ariel Zuckermann, Martha Marlow and William Barton

In 2015 we unveiled Momentum Ensemble; a program designed to help young musicians build the skills, knowledge and versatility required for a 21st century career in music. On the cusp of their professional careers, the chosen ensemble each year develops a unique musical voice and challenges the boundaries of the recital hall.

AYO held a series of launch events in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to showcase the broad range of styles we would offer with graphic animations to enhance the experience. The launch tour was led by conductor Ariel Zuckerman with two esteemed soloists, vocalist and guitarist Martha Marlow and didgeridoo virtuoso, William Barton.

Singer songwriter Martha Marlow performing with Momentum ensemble, led by Ariel Zuckerman.
Momentum Ensemble performing under the baton of Ariel Zuckerman in 2015.
Didgeridoo performer William Barton performing with Momentum ensemble, led by Ariel Zuckerman, in 2015.

2016: Europe, China and Australia

The highlight of 2016 was AYO’s 22nd international tour, with musicians performing as cultural ambassadors for Australia under the baton of acclaimed conductor Manfred Honeck, with celebrated pianist Hélène Grimaud. The tour began with an enjoyable two-week residency at Akoesticum in The Netherlands.

Watch interviews with our CEO Colin Cornish, Artistic Director of Akoesticum Harold Lenselink and Concertmaster Lawrence Lee.

Where would we be without our tutors?! Watch the interviews with AYO alumni and tutors, violinists Bindi McFarlane and Ben Lea, violist Toby Lea and flautist Alison Mitchell.

2017: 70 Years of National Music Camp

Since 1948, musicians have been coming to AYO National Music Camp and spending an intense two weeks immersed in music, making new connections and working with renowned conductors and artists. In 2017 we celebrated 70 years of National Music Camp, which has now welcomed over 8,000 young musicians from across Australia. Since the beginning of Camp at Point Lonsdale in Victoria, the program has evolved to encompass training for orchestral performance, composition, music journalism, orchestral management and sound production.

See how the program has developed in the video below.

AYO alumnus, clarinet tutor and donor Chris Tingay shares his cherished memories of attending camp.

If you’re an AYO alumni, see if you can spot yourself in our collection of group photos from through the years!

A collage of group photos from AYO National Music Camp over the years.

AYO National Music Camp 2017 was held at the University of Adelaide and stayed there for the next three years with support from the Elder Conservatorium. Distinguished artists joined us at camp including alumni cellist, Li-Wei Qin and conductors Elim Chan and Dietrich Paredes who both made their Australian debuts. AYO alumna Bindi McFarlane also made her welcome return to Camp as Chamber Orchestra Director, visiting from the UK where she plays for the London Symphony Orchestra.

Conductor Elim Chan leads an AYO orchestra with cellist soloist Li-Wei Qin during AYO National Music Camp 2017.
A chamber orchestra rehearses during AYO National Music Camp 2017.
Conductor Dietrich Paredes leads an AYO orchestra during AYO National Music Camp 2017.

2018: Musical Communities | Our initiative for all children of Australia to have access to quality music education

In 2018 we continued to pursue the values of high quality music education across the country through the National Music Teacher Mentoring Program, which moved into its first year of formal operation since its conception in 2015.

Over 46 new schools and 82 teachers joined the program in 2018 with schools in Queensland participating for the first time following NSW, SA, WA and Victoria already taking part. With a goal of reaching more than 20,000 children by the end of 2022 we had encouraging feedback from teachers, principals and young students everywhere.

“…it offers professional learning that is real and meaningful because it’s actually in the classroom, it’s happening with the children, … it’s part of their normal workload…” – Primary School Principal

A classroom of primary school students sitting on the floor, with two music teacher mentors.
Two music teachers raise their arms while holding conducting batons, during a Music Teacher Mentoring session.

During the year, Momentum Ensemble had the exciting opportunity to collaborate with Peninsula Specialist College in a collaborative project directed by music educationalist and composer Paul Rissmann and violinist Bindi McFarlane. Digeridoo player William Barton also shared his craft with students of ‘didge club’ at the school. This musical experience culminated in a unified performance with Momentum Ensemble and the creative young students of Peninsula Specialist College.

Momentum Ensemble bassoonist Emma Morrison chats about her week working alongside students at Peninsula Specialist College in this article. Read more.

Momentum Ensemble musicians play instruments with students from Peninsula Specialist College in a classroom

2019: Australian artists | Celebrating Australian musicians, composers and conductors

Last year, we showed to the world the brilliant musicians, composers and conductors we have right here in Australia. From working alongside one of the country’s leading opera companies, to performing contemporary Australian works and representing Australia on the world stage, AYO musicians had the opportunity to play their part in championing Australian music and artists throughout 2019.

Momentum Ensemble performing with singer songwriter Lior and composer Nigel Westlake in 2019.

Singer-songwriter Lior and Momentum Ensemble

The dynamic young performers of Momentum Ensemble joined forces with singer-songwriter Lior in a concert at the National Theatre in Melbourne. The Australian vocalist performed a concert of crowd favourites with an enchanting twist alongside the ensemble.

Watch the orchestra perform ‘If I Lost Your Love’ alongside Lior Attar.

Gallery: Photo Credit © Sarah Walker

Composer Holly Harrison’s Frumious: AYO’s International Tour

A unique part of AYO’s international tours is having the opportunity to share Australian music with the rest of the world. In 2019 AYO performed Sydney-based composer Holly Harrison’s Frumious on the tour, bringing to life this unique and fantasy inspired piece for audiences in Europe and China.

Listen to our interview with Holly on the AYO podcast:

Australian Youth Orchestra · Meet the AYO Episode 22 | Holly Harrison, composer
The Australian Youth Orchestra performs on stage under the baton of conductor Krzysztof Urbański in 2019. They are wearing concert blacks.

Conductor Richard Mills and Parsifal: AYO February Season

As part of Victorian Opera’s production of Wagner’s Parsifal, the Australian Youth Orchestra gave several notable performances of this epic work under Australian Artistic Director Richard Mills. In the historic setting of Melbourne’s Palais Theatre, the musicians were able to experience life in the orchestra pit.

“The Australian Youth Orchestra, conducted by Richard Mills, did justice to the mammoth work. Careful restraint ensured singers were never drowned out. The musicians in the large orchestra harnessed great intensity and momentum for the mystical composition, shining in the preludes.” – Lydia McClelland, Limelight Magazine

The Australian Youth Orchestra plays in the pit of the Palais Theatre during the 2019 production of 'The Flying Dutchman' by Victorian Opera.

Read AYO oboist Mikaela Sukkar’s article on her experiences in the operatic world at February Season. Read more.

2020: Connecting Online

In 2020 our musicians, staff and artists all prepared to come together for another year of music-making. In the months after National Music Camp in January we experienced the impact of COVID-19 and were unable to safely come together for the remainder of our face-to-face programs in 2020. We saw the widespread impact that this had upon countless members of the AYO community and were determined to continue supporting their creativity and ambition.

Keeping the Music Alive

We witnessed our community getting creative and keeping the music alive in more ways than one – from Zoom duets and online performances to reed-making tutorials and digital lessons. Watch some AYO alumni in action.

Our First Ever Online Programs

This year we moved into the digital realm to deliver virtual auditions, online orchestral training opportunities and remote music teacher mentor training.

The musicians of AYO Winter Season and AYO Orchestral Career Development had the opportunity to develop practice techniques, perform mock auditions and be mentored by renowned Australian and international artists online.

A collage of screenshots from online AYO programs during 2020.

Participants of these programs also had the chance to connect with AYO alumni working as professional musicians overseas. These mentors provided guidance on their playing, as well as sharing some valuable career guidance and networking opportunities. Read more about connecting with AYO’s international alumni.

Music Mentoring Online

This year over 75 schools and 150 teachers were enrolled to be mentored as part of the National Music Teacher Mentoring Program. Without the option of valuable in-person training of new mentors, we looked to the resourcefulness of online material and remote training sessions. By June this year, we developed a suite of virtual modules for training new mentors, alongside sessions on Zoom and new online teaching materials including a Rhymes and Songs series. As a result of the new online training of mentors, music education can be brought to over 3,400 primary students across Australia. Read more here.

The Year Ahead | What’s On In 2021?

There are countless exciting opportunities for Australia’s young musicians in the coming year. 2021 will see young musicians coming together in Melbourne and Sydney for AYO Autumn and Spring Music Camps, working alongside conductors Fabian Russell, Johannes Fritzsch and Umberto Clerici.

The Australian Youth Orchestra will perform a diverse range of repertoire – from Stravinsky’s famous Firebird Suite to the Australian premiere of Peter Eötvös’ Aurora, featuring a solo performance by Principal Double Bass of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Matthew McDonald. The orchestra will present two seasons led by renowned conductors Matthew Coorey and Benjamin Northey.

AYO Chamber Players will embark on musical residencies with leading chamber ensembles, Arcadia Winds, the Seraphim Trio and the Australian String Quartet; and Australia’s state orchestras will once again welcome AYO musicians for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Fellowships.

Listen to our Spotify playlist highlighting some of AYO’s 2021 repertoire and head to our programs page for more information.