Our Orchestras and Ensembles


THE SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL YOUTH ORCHESTRA FOUNDATION’s history began in 1964 with the first National Youth Orchestra camp being held in Gauteng under the auspices of the South African Society of Music Teachers.

The Foundation is recognised for promoting successful careers for internationally recognised musicians and the National Youth Orchestra has performed on international platforms.


Founded in 1964

The South African NATIONAL YOUTH ORCHESTRA is our flagship ensemble. This is the Proteas of South African youth orchestras, with an impressive legacy of international and national tours since its inception nearly 50 years ago. Some highlights:

  • In 1975 SA NYO took part in the International Festival of Youth Orchestras in Aberdeen
  • This was followed by a tour of Israel and Europe in 1978
  • In 1994 SA NYO was gathered recognition as one of the leading youth orchestras in the world with performances broadcast by the BBC.
  • In 1998 SA NYO participated in a mass concert conducted by Gérard Korsten on Red Square in Moscow – the spectacular performance was televised worldwide
  • In 2006 SA NYO toured to Germany to participate in the prestigious Beethoven Fest in Bonn, where it was described as one of the best youth orchestras that had ever performed at the festival
  • In 2010 SA NYO was led for the first time by a female conductor, Ewa Strusińska
  • In 2011 Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu narrated the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra by Benjamin Britten at a SA NYO performance in Johannesburg


Founded in 1970

The NATIONAL YOUTH CONCERT ORCHESTRA is an important stage for developing young musicians on the pathway towards performing in professional orchestras. It’s one step away from the SA NYO, for which it provides strong competition at the annual orchestra course (and at the traditional soccer match held during the course!). The NATIONAL YOUTH CONCERT ORCHESTRA plays an exciting programme enjoyed by audiences every year.


Founded in 1974

The NATIONAL YOUTH STRING ENSEMBLE is a development ensemble for the orchestra course. The intention is to draw more and more players into our courses through ensembles such as this. This ensemble participates alongside the two national youth symphony orchestras in the Sasol NATIONAL YOUTH ORCHESTRA Course each year: it is made up of young people who, striving for excellence in a bid to win their way into the top orchestras, constantly challenge the members of the NATIONAL YOUTH ORCHESTRA and the NATIONAL YOUTH CONCERT ORCHESTRA for places the next year they attend the course. For both the players and their audience this ensemble is the perfect introduction to the best music in the universe.


Founded in 2005

The NATIONAL YOUTH WIND ORCHESTRA is the premier national youth wind ensemble in South Africa and is on the same level as the National Youth Orchestra. It includes saxophones and euphoniums, instruments not commonly found in the symphony orchestra programme. Formed under the name “South African National Youth Wind Ensemble” in 2005, the orchestra has been led by great wind band conductors including Laszlo Marosi from Hungary, Sean Kierman from South Africa/the United States of America and Bjørn Breistein from Norway. The 2012 National Youth String Orchestra will form part of the NATIONAL YOUTH WIND ORCHESTRA to tour alongside the Zurich Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Sir Roger Norrington in January 2013.


Founded in 2012

Building on the success of an initial course held in July 2010, a second advanced course for string instruments will be held in Simon’s Town (Cape Town) in December this year. The orchestra has been formed to aid the development of our top young string virtuosos and will be led by the acclaimed Swedish concertmaster and conductor Fredrik Burstedt. The 2012 National Youth String Orchestra will also form part of the NATIONAL YOUTH ORCHESTRA to tour alongside the Zurich Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Sir Roger Norrington in January 2013.



Founded: 2010

For the second time in the Foundation’s history (since our first tour to the National Arts Festival in 2010), an orchestra was formed to explore baroque music and “Historically Informed Performance Practice”. Select members of the 2011 National Youth Orchestra with a keen interest in baroque music were joined by recorder players, a harpsichord for continuo, and members of some of the world’s best orchestras – including the Teatro alla Scala Orchestra, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and the Trondheim Soloists – for the opera production produced by Umculo|Cape Festival of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen. The orchestra will tour to Europe in 2013.



Founded: 2012

National Youth Brass has been formed to promote professional development for pre-professional musicians – it is the first dedicated national ensemble course of its kind for South Africa. The ensemble is made up of ten musicians who have auditioned alongside many other applicants from across the country for the opportunity. The participants come from home grown projects and music initiatives such as the Field Band Foundation, started in 1997 and now a nationwide initiative enabling 5 000 young people to enhance their lives through music and movement; the Nelson Mandela Metrolpolitan University Music Department and University of Cape Town SA College of Music; and come from cities as diverse as Kimberley, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. This ensemble is truly a reflection of South Africa’s best brass talent.“It is a great privilege for me to be involved in this exciting new project. Through the National Youth Brass we have the chance to bring together the cream of young brass players from across South Africa, I am looking forward hugely to working with this wonderful group of musicians,” says Mark Hampson, bass trombone in Claudio Abbado’s Lucerne Festival Orchestra and in the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.