In the final week of August a group of our most committed students were invited to a week-long youth orchestra camp organised by Sistema England. The Young Leader’s Orchestra brought together young people from In Harmony and El Sistema-inspired projects from all round the UK, and teaching staff from all over the world to coach and work with the orchestra. It was a week of extremely intensive music-making set in the fabulous grounds of Shrewbury School. Warm ups started at 9am, with a morning of sectionals to follow. Our two oboists were delighted to work with Royal-Academy graduate, Grace. It was wonderful to see their transformation throughout the week from two girls who hid away from group photos, to the beaming oboists who lead the tuning of the wind-section and threw themselves into the thrilling ‘Mambo’ that they performed in the final concert.

I was lucky enough to work with some fantastic flautists from The Nucleo Project and In Harmony Liverpool and Telford. Not only did these four girls throw themselves into the music with amazing perseverance, but proved their generosity of spirit and leadership by helping and encouraging each other. We all particularly enjoyed practising our swaying and slinking for Bizet’s Habanera from Carmen…proving that flute players really are the divas of the orchestra! Massed wind sectionals from Emily of YOLA at LA Phil were particularly inspiring for all the wind players – a real lesson in professionality and working together as a section. Our trumpeter really enjoying making new friends from other programmes and his boosted confidence shone through in his playing, which in turn received glowing accolades from the brass tutor, Rocco.

Full orchestra sessions came in the afternoon with our wonderful Maestro, Felix. From the outset he refused to treat the young leaders as anything less than professionals and they gave back exactly that-professionalism and dedication. He inspired them to really inhabit the music, to feel it coming from somewhere deep inside and to move with it – no less in a classical symphony than in Latin-inspired Mambo music. This was no more apparent than in the final performance which had the young instrumentalists up on their feet and their tutors dancing down the aisles! The faces of our young violinists as they jumped up and danced with their violins is something I won’t forget for a while!

Throughout the week a spirit of fun and friendship was apparent. It was wonderful to see our group mixing with young people from all round the country who had one thing in common- their love of music. Internationally renowned musicians Nicola Benedetti and Roddy Williams inspired the group on our trip to Longborough Opera, but I daresay they were inspired in turn by the passion, energy and dedication of our young leaders!

Our final morning was spent giving thank-yous and prizes, one of which for Best Independent Learner was received by our bassoonist who had been the sole bassoonist for the whole orchestra. It was sad to say goodbye to our new Sistema England family, but I am looking forward to meeting this group of extraordinary young people again and seeing the orchestra go from strength to strength. I hope our own young leaders had an experience they will never forget and have come back home looking forward to inspiring others with their leadership!

Originally published on the Sage Gateshead website.