Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Q&A: David Taylor

8:00, 9th February 2017

Although the Yorkshire Young Sinfonia (YYS) only gave its first performance in 2015, it is already a resounding success. Katy Wright talks to its CEO and founder

Why did you decide to start the ensemble?
Yorkshire is such a large region – it’s the same size [in terms of population] as Scotland, and yet sadly we don’t have anything which provides for young musicians on par with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland or the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. I also wanted young musicians to have access to the skills and knowledge I wanted when I was young.
There were certainly some challenges along the way. The classical music sector as a whole isn’t particularly well geared up for adopting innovations, so there was a little resistance to new ideas at the beginning. But since we’ve been running it’s been much easier to showcase who we are and get people to come on board.

Tell me about the ensemble.
The orchestra brings together young people from all over the Yorkshire region who are aged 12 to 18. They come together for a week of intensive music making with professional musicians from orchestras including the LPO, CBSO and the Hallé. They also participate in workshops on performance psychology, UCAS, singing, anxiety, and the differences between music college and university. We try to give them as many skills as possible which they will need to study music and to be part of the music industry, or can transfer to other sectors. Evenings are taken up with activities based around social inclusion and teamwork, which are all provided by a large team of pastoral staff.

How has the response been?
We’ve had some incredible feedback. The number of comments we’ve had about the quality of the project and how they enjoy having a cultural identity has been incredibly touching. We’ve had a few who’ve said they’ve gone on to study music as a direct result of this, and that it’s been an incredible, life-changing experience. Audiences have said how much they’ve enjoyed it.

How is it funded?
So far, it has been funded by personal investments. We’re currently in the process of recruiting sponsors and Arts Council funding as well; as we’re growing, our funding strategy is expanding quite significantly.

Capturing the experience: a young musician wearing a GoPro
Capturing the experience: a young musician wearing a GoPro

How are you engaging with audiences using technology?
We’ve been using social media to enhance the concert-going experience. We used a live hashtag feed for a concert, which was displayed before the performance, during the interval and at the end; the concert programme had information about how to take photos and tweet without disturbing other members of the audience. We’ve also used GoPro cameras to help students capture the experience of being part of the orchestra. Our conductor GoPro camera footage received 10,500 views, so that’s been a good way of spreading our message.

What are your plans for the orchestra for the next few years?
We had Stephen Hough for our 2016 concerts, which is amazing for our second year, and we’ve got Ray Chen this year, so hopefully we’ll continue to attract incredible soloists. I’d love to fly the
flag for Yorkshire at the Proms at some point, especially having seen the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland there this year. We want to promote Yorkshire on a national scale and really make sure people know what’s going on within the region.

What do you want players to get from the experience?
I want them to acquire the skills they need for classical music for the next century. Our sector’s changing quite significantly and we need to provide musicians with all the skills they need from a young age, in order to ensure they can bring an entrepreneurial approach. We need to ensure we continue to innovate within classical music.

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