In the turbulence of the past two years, AYO Young Symphonists has not run since April 2019. But the program is back this September, and we couldn’t be more excited to turn a fresh new page with some of the brightest young musicians in Australia! Conductor Fabian Russell will guide the orchestra as they fill Ballarat’s Wendouree Centre for Performing Arts with dazzling sound.

A young woman with dark brown hair in a bun plays a large golden harp on stage.
Isla Biffin performing at AYO Young Symphonists 2019 at Deakin Edge, Melbourne.

Harpist Isla Biffin first took part in AYO Young Symphonists in 2018 and returned the following year. Isla is currently studying at the prestigious Mozarteum Universität in Salzburg, and most took to the stage with the Australian Youth Orchestra under the baton of Sir Mark Elder CH CBE in July this year.

She reflects that the camaraderie between participants is something that stands out in her mind: “Having done many AYO programs over the years – Young Symphonists, National Music Camp and the Australian Youth Orchestra – they often blend into a blur of incredible musical experiences when I look back. But what I remember most from Young Symphonists in 2019 was having the best time with everyone; making music together, playing card games, laughing into the night and making friends for life.”

AYO Young Symphonists shares a number of characteristics with AYO National Music Camp. Both programs are jam-packed residential intensives filled with orchestral rehearsals, chamber ensembles, and professional development sessions. But unlike National Music Camp, Young Symphonists is specifically designed for instrumentalists aged 12-17 years old and runs for the shorter timeframe of one week.

A composite image showing a young man with dark brown hair plays a cello in concert black attire. The image on the left is dated from 2019 and the image on the right is three years later.
Isaac Davis performing in the AYO Young Symphonists program in 2019 (left), and the Australian Youth Orchestra interstate tour in 2022 (right).

This means AYO Young Symphonists is uniquely placed within the stable of AYO programs. Advanced musicians who are still at high school get the opportunity to lead their instrument sections, build friendships and musical partnerships with peers in the same age bracket, and get a taste for the disciplined performance training at AYO provides.

“The AYO Young Symphonists program in 2019 was a pivotal opportunity for me in pursuing a career as a performing musician,” notes Isaac Davis, a cellist originally hailing from Sydney, now studying at Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne. “I thoroughly enjoyed the collaborative and social aspects of the program, and the commitment and passion from my colleagues was inspiring.”

For many participants, AYO Young Symphonists is their first experience within the world of AYO. While it’s not a strict pre-requisite for other AYO programs (applicants choose which programs to apply for each year within the selection they are eligible for), the targeted focus of AYO Young Symphonists creates a welcoming environment for emerging musicians, whether they are more experienced or have never played in an orchestra before.’

A composite image showing a young man with light brown hair plays a viola in concert black attire. The image on the left is dated from 2019 and the image on the right is three years later.
Jamie Miles performing in the AYO Young Symphonists program in 2019 (left), and the Australian Youth Orchestra interstate tour in 2022 (right).

“Young Symphonists is a fantastic opportunity for budding musicians to get a taste of what it’s like to be an orchestral musician. I learnt lifelong musical skills, made lasting memories and formed great friendships at Young Symphonists in 2019!” Violist Jamie Miles was 14 years old when he first took part in AYO Young Symphonists. This year, Jamie was Principal Viola during the Australian Youth Orchestra’s three-state tour- despite being younger than three-quarters of the viola section!