What is it like to be a member of the National Youth Orchestra?

17-year-old violinist Jack Greed reveals how it feels to play in one of the world's most prestigious orchestras for young people

What is it like to be a member of the National Youth Orchestra?

Jack Greed, 17 year-old violinist from Leeds and musician of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, talks about what it means to play in one of the world’s greatest orchestras of young people and how his average day compares to that of other teenagers.


Being a teenage musician carries with it quite a few differences to the teenage life I had imagined for myself. Having said that, I seem to have a knack of choosing hobbies that take up big chunks of my time – before seriously taking up the violin, I wanted to become a professional golfer. This meant that I would spend at least two hours a day at the driving range practicing, or up to five hours playing a full round.

Playing the violin is not dissimilar in that a significant amount of your free time will be spent either in the practice room or the rehearsal hall – or scouring the Internet for an obscure piece of music you cannot seem to find in music shops anywhere. An average day will see me nipping home in my free periods to get a bit of extra practice done, or even (on rare occasions) getting up early to play before school. Almost inevitably, this means that every now and then some other aspects of life receive less attention than perhaps they should: on a Sunday evening, you may well find me frantically catching up with the last week’s homework. Luckily the teachers at my school are understanding and supportive of my musical studies, even if they do have to give me the occasional kick to get homework handed in!

Something that is important for all musicians, but especially teenage musicians, is to have some 'down time' every once in a while. In the past, I have found myself obsessing over perfecting a certain passage in a piece of music or finding the very best interpretation of a particular concerto, but in music, there really is no 'perfect' or 'best' interpretation – only each individual's best educated guess. This is why a musician should try to regularly 'switch off' for a while and do something fun and relaxing, otherwise you might find yourself dangerously engaged with finding this non-existent perfection. I like to play basketball and football in my spare time, or bake. But when I really want to switch off for a while, I never say no to a good sci-fi film.

Many people ask me how I can possibly do one single thing for up to five or six hours a day. Really, the answer comes easily: because there is no other feeling like the one you get when you walk onto a stage in front of an excited audience; when you get to your favourite bit of the whole piece; when you make eye contact with someone else and know that they feel the same excitement and passion for music as you do.

For me, being given the opportunity to play with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain is one of the biggest rewards I or any other teenage musician could wish for. It is one of the largest gatherings of teenagers out there – there are over 160 of us each year. Each and every one of us feels the same passion for music and that is what makes it such a special organisation – we are all committed to achieving the highest possible standard of performance and making it as rewarding an experience for our audiences as it is for us. I feel privileged to be invited back for what will be my third year in NYO and I am very excited to get started again with our winter residency, which will culminate with two concerts, at Leeds Town Hall and at the Barbican in London. NYO is a very inspiring ensemble and has been a great motivation for me for the past three years, but before that, I owe my passion for music to my family. My parents, brothers and grandfather are all very talented musicians and I have aspired to be like them since the first time I experienced a symphony orchestra.


- Jack Greed, violinist, NYO


The National Youth Orchestra will perform works by Elgar and Respighi under conductor John Wilson on 3-4 January in Leeds and London respectively. Visit www.nyo.org.uk to find out more




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  • Article Type: | Blog |
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