The Bellingen Youth Orchestra (BYO) was formed after a visit to Bellingen from Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra in 2007. It has continued its relationship with the ACO since then and has now grown to include an inspiring string school for the younger enthusiastic students. An incredible collection of young and talented musicians this youth orchestra is unique in the rural regions of Australia. With regular performances to full-houses they continue to build a reputation for bringing diverse and polished works reflecting the energy and exuberance of youth.
The Bellingen Youth Orchestra’s varied repertoire includes standard orchestral pieces and popular film music scores. Their performances of Grieg’s Piano Concerto, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, The Warsaw Concerto with concert pianist and patron, David Helfgott have received great acclaim. The BYO are also known for their originality and fresh approach to music and, in 2017 performed a world premiere performance of Wuuban Barri, a work by local composer Paul Jarman. Written to be accompanied by a choir singing in the local Gumbaynggirr language and specially commissioned by the Bellingen Music Festival as part of the Music- By-Youth Project, this performance masterfully captured the essence of place and immediacy of cultural history.
Ann Phelan is the musical director of the Bellingen Youth Orchestra and has been its conductor since its inauguration. Ann has always delighted in conducting youth groups. “They have a greater spontaneity and an enthusiastic sound which is hard to find in mature players”, she says.
Originally from Sydney, Ann has quite a history of orchestral conducting, having had many a student orchestra under her baton including the Lane Cove Youth Orchestra and the Combined Public Schools Orchestra which toured Europe in 1998. In 2011, Ann won a ‘Special Commendation’ for music education – one of the most prestigious awards for music teaching in Australia. Ann has brought together an incredible team of talented musical mentors. The ensembles led by Jacquie Gill, Elizabeth Scott and Amber Davis work with Bellingen’s outstanding music tutors, whose enthusiasm and commitment continues to make this incredibly popular and successful orchestra possible.
The Bellingen Youth Orchestra is proving to be a wonderful training ground for some of Australia’s future performers with players past and present extending into such programs as the Australian Youth Orchestra, the ACO Academy and reaching the highest levels of tertiary musical achievement.
“About a year ago the wonderful and clever Annie Phelan asked me to think about starting a senior ensemble under the banner of the Bellingen Youth Orchestra. After some deliberation, we drew inspiration from the incredible educator the late Richard Gill and his pilot student training programme with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra that was also called Sinfonia… and in my 23 years with the SSO I had the privilege to participate as a mentor… “(Amber Davis Artistic Director)
So based on this idea, Sinfonia started at the beginning of this year with a small group of the most advanced string students in the BYO and they have been working on Tchaikovsky String Serenade, the Danish String quartet music Woodworks and Corelli’s Christmas Concerto.
They have already performed at the June BYO concert and at a fundraiser concert at the Nambucca Arts Centre.
Bellingen Youth Orchestra String School
The Bellingen Youth Orchestra String School (BYOSS), which commenced at the beginning of 2018, is designed to advance promising and committed young players who are preparing to enter the Bellingen Youth Orchestra.
The ensemble is run by two passionate Suzuki-trained violin teachers, Jacquie Gill and Elizabeth Scott, with the assistance of cello tutor Tash Dyason.
Students are from Year 3-Year 7 and hail from almost every school in the district: Bellingen High, Bellingen Public, St Mary’s Primary, Orama Public, Urunga Public, Chrysalis Steiner School, Bishop Druitt College, John Paul College and Dorrigo Public.