Culture: Tuned in to the Passion and Dedication of Young Talent; as Part of a Series Looking at Young People and Classical Music, Christopher Morley Meets Members of the CBSO Youth Orchestra
Byline: Christopher Morley
Though barely three years into its existence, the CBSO Youth Orchestra has rapidly established an enviable name for itself.
That reputation was in fact made right at its opening concert in 2004, when this ensemble, born partly from members of the Midland Youth Orchestra which had ceased operations just short of its half-century, performed a programme of Khachaturian, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius at Birmingham Conservatoire's Adrian Boult Hall at the end of the autumn half-term.
Half-terms are important times for the orchestra, because that is when their handpicked members get together for a week's intensive rehearsals before the public concert.
Conductors have included Sakari Oramo, Paul Daniel, Garry Walker, Michael Seal and Anthony Bradbury, and the orchestra has performed with international soloists such as the trumpeter Alison Balsom, violinist Tasmin Little, pianists Peter Donohoe, Alexander Melnikov and Joanna MacGregor, and cellist Eduardo Vassallo.
As well as at the ABH, the orchestra has given concerts at such major venues as Symphony Hall and the Butterworth Hall at Warwick Arts Centre.
The enthusiasm and commitment of the youthful musicians is undeniable, as I found out when I spoke to some of them.
One of the youngest members is Sarah Watts-Tibbatts, a 14-year-old first violinist already into her third year with the orchestra after auditioning at the age of 12.
Now in her fourth year at Edgbaston's King Edward VI High School for Girls, the Solihullbased teenager explains how lucky she is to be exposed to a wealth of musical opportunities in Birmingham.
"I'm a member of the Birmingham Conservatoire Junior Department and of the King Edward School Symphony Orchestra," she tells me.
"It was through these organisations and attending concerts that I became aware of the CBSO Youth Orchestra. I'm glad my audition was successful, as I've been able to further my ability and play some more advanced and challenging music."
And she pays tribute to the experience that playing in the orchestra has given her. "I've gained professional tuition from tutors and conductors, and performed at Symphony Hall!
"It's given me the opportunity to play with professional soloists such as Tasmin Little."
Sarah continues by describing the insights the experience has given her into the demands and discipline of a professional orchestra, and the development of her technique and confidence "to rise to the challenge whilst performing".
As a result of the experiences she has already gained, Sarah has successfully auditioned for membership of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, which she will join immediately after Christmas. She and schoolmate Suzie Quirke, a violinist one year above her, are the first pupils of King Edward's High School to be selected for this prestigious ensemble in 28 years.
But with this exciting development, will Sarah remain with the CBSO Youth Orchestra?
"Absolutely! Being a member of the CBSO Youth has been such a fantastic experience... my playing has developed immensely and I have made great friends. I will stay as long as they will have me! …