I joined WYO when I was 11, way back in 2008 when Noel Bertram was the conductor. I’d heard about it through one if its feeder groups, Kendal Strings, which was (and still is!) run by Debby Howrie, WYO’s indispensable Violin tutor. The high standard and friendly inclusivity of WYO instantly inspired me to join as many orchestras as I could possibly manage: Cumbria Youth Orchestra soon followed, and I was lucky enough to be awarded places in the National Childrens’ Orchestra and, a little later, the National Youth String Orchestra.
One memory of WYO which I remember fondly was our tour to the Aberdeen International Music Festival when I was in my early teens. To meet so many likeminded young musicians from all across Europe come together was a great experience. It made me realise how special music-making can be, possessing the ability to break language and cultural barriers with ease. Friday nights were always a treat, and not just because of the fish and chips which always seem to prelude the rehearsals!
Having graduated from Oxford University with a music degree in 2018, I’m now embarking on a career to become a professional orchestral conductor. The skills that I have learnt whilst playing in orchestras such as WYO are essential in order to practice this specialism, and it’s one of the many reasons why I’m so grateful for the special time I spent with the orchestra. I’m sure that, in many years’ time, WYO (and the local fish and chips shop) will be as successful as ever.