National Youth Orchestra
The National Youth Orchestra is an annual training orchestra founded in 1960 to provide Canada's most gifted orchestral musicians between the ages of 14 and 28 with an experience that helps prepare them for the rigours of performing with a full-scale professional orchestra. It was created largely through the efforts of Walter Susskind, who, when he became music director of the TORONTO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA in 1956, brought with him a belief in the value of forming a youth orchestra similar to the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. "I regard the formation of the National Youth Orchestra in Canada as the most important step we can take to help guarantee the successful growth and development of major symphony orchestras in this country," he stated.
In 1960 Susskind's dream was realized in a pilot workshop organized by James McIntosh and co-directed by Susskind and Harman Haakman in Stratford, Ontario. The success of that workshop led to the formation of the National Youth Orchestra Association, a federally chartered non-profit organization devoted to the discovery and training of young Canadian orchestral musicians. In 1971 Georg Tintner was invited to be the music director of the NYO. Before his death in 1999 he returned at least 7 times to lead the NYO.
Since 1960 the NYO has trained over 1900 of the country's best young musicians. Each year more than 600 auditions are conducted from coast to coast by alumni, faculty and friends of the NYO, and between 80 and 90 musicians are selected for the summer program, which consists of 3-4 weeks of training and 2-3 weeks of concert touring. The sole criterion for acceptance into the NYO is talent.
The NYO faculty is made up of highly regarded instructors and performers from some of the premier orchestras of North America and Europe. During a typical 6-day week at the NYO students play for up to 48 hours in a variety of formats, including private lessons, sectional rehearsals, full orchestra rehearsals and individual practice. Income for the NYO's annual budget comes from governmental agencies, corporations, foundations and private donors.
Over 2000 young musicians have received training in the National Youth Orchestra throughout its history. Approximately one in 3 musicians performing in Canada's professional symphony orchestras are alumni of the NYO. A 1996 survey found NYO alumni in 20 principal Canadian orchestras. Their presence accounted for an average of 35% of the total number of musicians performing in the orchestras surveyed, reaching more than 50% in the 1998-99 Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. The rosters of major symphony orchestras in the US, Europe and Asia also contain many NYO alumni.
The NYO has presented concerts in every major city in Canada and in many other cities throughout North America, Europe and Japan. It has also been the subject of several television documentaries. In 1998 the NYO toured Japan under the direction of Kazuyoshi Akiyama. The NYO's 2000 concert schedule, also under the direction of Akiyama, included concerts in Kingston, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria. Like many Canadian orchestras, the NYO also has a composer-in-residence. Omar Daniel held that post for the 1999 season.