Since 1960 the National Youth Orchestra (NYO) of Canada has been supporting and fostering the careers of young Canadian classical musicians from ages 16-28 to prepare them for a career as professional orchestral musicians. 

Each year more than 500 musicians audition to be part of this prestigious ensemble, and only the elite are chosen. 

One of the highlights of every NYO summer is the cross-country tour that is done. This summer the musicians of the NYO will visit Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Albera giving eight concerts in a tour that they are calling Horizons. 

Coming up on Tuesday July 23rd at 7:30 pm at the Centennial Concert Hall the National Youth Orchestra will be here in Winnipeg performing music of Bela Bartok, Maurice Ravel, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Joan Tower and others in an evening that is sure to be a phenomenal night of music making performed by some of the best young musicians in the country. 

Directing the orchestra will be a name that is remarkably familiar to Winnipeg audiences. NYO has selected Maestro Naomi Woo to be the conductor of this topflight ensemble. Woo was the Assistant Conductor for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra between 2019 and 2023, and she is thrilled to take on the mantle of mentor to these musicians. “It’ so exciting! I just really look forward to working with the incredible young musicians of The National Youth Orchestra.” 

The NYO Manitoba Members 

There are several Manitoba musicians who are taking part in this year’s NYO. And for them, the opportunity to perform in Winnipeg with this ensemble and make great music is a highlight. Keshav Srinivasan is a violinist with NYO, as he says, “Playing in Winnipeg for family is incredibly special. I think my uncle is going to bring twenty or thirty of his friends who are going just because I am in the orchestra...and they may not have experienced much classical is going to be really special to share what I love with them.” 

The road to becoming a professional orchestral musician can also mean extended periods of time away from friends and family; studying and mastering the instrument. Gabriel Nishikawa is a bassoonist with NYO. In the fall, he will start the second year of his Masters in Music at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. As he says, “I’m looking forward to the whole tour because it so fun, but definitely performing in Winnipeg...I’ve been away from home for five years and it is not often that my family gets to hear me play.” 

Mentorship and Pedagogy 

Learning and mentoring are such an important part of NYO’s mandate. For conductor Woo the ability to connect with these musicians as a teacher is a wonderful opportunity. As she states, “The role of the conductor is to bring out the best in the musicians, and I see that as my role for NYO as well. To help the musicians who are there develop to their full potential, as musicians and leaders through my mentorship and leadership.” 

Manitoba mentorship has also been a big part of the equation for the Manitobans taking part in NYO. Tuba player Paulo John Rubio is a recent arrival to Manitoba. Originally from the Philippines he credits much of his success to the faculty at the University of Manitoba's Desautels Faculty of Music. “I have so many people to thank.... but I would like to start with the University of Manitoba. If Dr. [Richard] Gillis did not accept me at U of M, I would not be here in Canada at all. I would also like to thank my Wind ensemble Conductor Dr. Jacquie Dawson, who really supported me to take the audition for NYO, and of course my tuba teacher who is also an NYO alumni Juston Hickmott, who is really a fun and inspiring guy to learn from.” 

The Musical Programs 

NYO has a few music programs to choose from while they are on tour. The orchestra will be playing music by Jean Sibelius, Bela Bartok, Joan Tower, Lili Boulanger, Paul Hindemith, and others. For Woo, the music chosen was about making connections between different composers. As she explains, “For example, two of the pivotal pieces on the program are the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra which is just a classic of the repertoire. It is a piece where every section of the orchestra really gets to shine which is one of the reasons I chose it...and then there is the piece by Hindemith his Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber... A really interesting connection between these two composers is that the Canadian composer Violet Archer studied with both of them. I thought that connection was a really nice way of tying the legacy of these big-name composers to Canadian a lineage of composers that feel part of our orchestral fabric...the Canadian orchestral fabric.” 

The National Youth Orchestra of Canada’s concert on Tuesday July 23rd at 7:30p.m at The Centennial Concert Hall, is sure to be remarkable showcase of young Canadian talent, and a glowing beacon of the vitality of music education in Canada. 

For more details on NYO’s concert and their musical selections click here.