For more than fifty years, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada has enjoyed an iconic reputation as Canada’s orchestral finishing school, providing the most comprehensive and in-depth training program available to our country’s best young classical musicians. As the bridge between music education and a music career, NYOC trains well-rounded and skilled orchestral musicians who are able to thrive in a variety of performance environments.
More performers in Canada’s professional orchestras are alumni of the NYOC than any other institute or university. Approximately one third of Canadian professional orchestral musicians are alumni of the NYOC. Each year, NYOC auditions about five hundred students between the ages of 16 and 28. From those auditions, we select 90-100 of Canada’s most promising young orchestral musicians to participate in our summer training institute, where they will benefit from rigorous individual, sectional, chamber and orchestral instruction; training in health and injury prevention; and workshops ranging from audition techniques to the skills required to market one’s musical career. The institute culminates in a cross-country tour with performances in Canada’s most prestigious concert halls, as well as a session in a state of-the-art recording studio at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music, with the audio available for sale to NYOC fans and classical music lovers worldwide.
NYOC is proud to host Canada’s only summer institute that offers a comprehensive training program, concert tour, and recording session to participants with no tuition required. Each student chosen from auditions is supported by scholarship funding provided by NYOC’s generous donors.
The NYOC was the brainchild of the noted conductor Walter Susskind, who joined the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as its Music Director in 1956. Based on his earlier experience with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Susskind became convinced that a training orchestra for outstanding young Canadian musical talent was essential: “I regard the formation of the National Youth Orchestra in Canada,” he said, “as the most important step we can take to help guarantee the successful growth and development of major symphony orchestras in this country.”
In the summer of 1960, Susskind and Harman Haakman directed a pilot workshop for young musicians in Stratford, Ontario. Its success and the subsequent support of several Toronto business people led to the formation of the National Youth Orchestra Association in 1960, a federally chartered, non-profit organization devoted to the discovery and training of accomplished young Canadian musicians.
The original function of the NYOC was to prepare a student orchestra for an annual cross-Canada tour. As time went on, however, the organization developed and elaborated its instructional program, becoming primarily a training body dedicated to perfecting the skills and talents of the best young Canadian musicians for careers as professional orchestral players through short but intensive summer session programs. The touring function of the orchestra, rather than being virtually the sole focus of the NYOC, remained a vital and integral part of a broader professional instructional program.
The NYOC’s concert tours have included every major Canadian city as well as occasional trips to the United States, Europe, and Asia. In 1996, the delegates to the World Youth Orchestra Conference in Tokyo, who represented 39 countries, voted to award the NYOC the title “Best Youth Orchestra in the World”. The NYOC returned to Japan and toured China in 2002.