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An orchestra where musicians with and without disabilities pursue excellence

“I’d been like part of a choir previously, but because I was undiagnosed at the time, there was like this consistent disconnect,” says saxophonist Jamie. “I wasn’t sure how to voice my needs and I distanced myself from like a lot of musical performance groups.”

The UK’s National Open Youth Orchestra (NOYO) was launched in 2018 to fill a void in opportunities for young musicians with disabilities. 

It offers talented musicians a path forward to continue honing their craft through the rehearsal and performance of works commissioned from composers who are exploring new directions in music. 

Meet Jamie and other NOYO musicians.

NOYO is open to musicians with and without disabilities, ages 11 to 25. They play both acoustic instruments and electronic instruments, including the Clarion—which can be played through the movement of any part of the body, such as the eyes—the LinnStrument, and Seaboard RISE.

The latest commission, “What Fear We Then?,” was created by composer Alexander Campkin. “Writing the piece was really important for me because I feel like as a disabled composer, I’ve been up against a number of barriers,” said Campkin.

Hear from Campkin about the piece.

A 2020 grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) to the Barbican Centre Trust supported the NOYO training center in London. The Barbican, a premier performing arts center in the City of London, is a partner in the project of NOYO.

SNF believes in opening up opportunities for people, especially young people, to pursue excellence in their field, including in the arts, and for the public to enjoy the products of their efforts. A wide variety of SNF's grants since the Foundation’s inception have focused on extending access to arts and cultural resources for new groups and individuals. We also believe in the power of collaborative activities, from music to sports, to build community, inclusion, and understanding.

“I don’t think that before NOYO—I mean I had met other autistic people but not really many—and just to see so many other people like me, it has definitely changed how I view actually being an autistic person,” said harpist Holli.

NOYO held its first-ever performance on April, in a relaxed atmosphere planned with neurodiverse audience members in mind.

Watch the music video for “What Fear We Then?”