National Youth Orchestra is awarded Queen's Medal

Ensemble becomes first the organisation to receive prestigious award

The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain has been awarded The Queen's Medal for Music. In doing so, it becomes the first ever organisation to receive an award that has traditionally been presented to individuals.

The medal was presented to the orchestra by Her Majesty the Queen during last night's London Symphony Orchestra concert at the Barbican – after the presentation, five of the NYO players joined the ranks of the LSO for a performance of Elgar's Enigma Variations.

It is an honour well deserved. Founded in 1948, the NYO has established itself as one of the finest youth ensembles in the world, and its annual performance at the BBC Proms is always a much-anticipated highlight. Many of its players have gone on to careers both as soloists and in Britain's leading professional orchestras – around one fifth of the LSO's players, for instance, used to play in the NYO.

One particularly famous former NYO member, conductor Sir Simon Rattle, has been among those to welcome the award. 'As a NYO graduate, I am delighted to see the orchestra recognised with The Queen's Medal for Music,' he says. 'On a personal level, I'll never forget my time with the orchestra and genuinely believe it to be one of Britain's greatest musical assets.'

Instituted in 2005, The Queen's Medal for Music is presented for an outstanding contribution to British musical life. Former winners have included bass-baritone Bryn Terfel (2006), conductor Sir Colin Davis (2009) and soprano Dame Emma Kirkby (2010).