National Youth Orchestra auditions for 2018


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Hundreds of young musicians are expected to apply to audition for a place in our prestigious green-and-gold symphonic team, the South African National Youth Orchestra.

SA National Youth Orchestra
SA National Youth Orchestra

Orchestras are formed each year at courses run in the holidays, and comprise of South Africa’s top young musical talent. Members include players from communities across the country, and are chosen on merit through two auditions. The first of these is an anonymous recorded audition, after which a live audition is played behind-screen in front of an expert audition panel.

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The National Youth Orchestra has supported the training and development of South Africa’s young musicians through its courses and development programmes for over half a century. Its legacy is far-reaching with representation of alumni in top professional orchestras in South Africa, and indeed across the globe. The orchestra has performed with the likes of Archbishop Tutu, Sir James Galway, Sir Roger Norrington, Barbara Hendricks and Judith Sephuma, just to name a few.

South African National Youth Orchestra - Photo by Cornel van Heerden.
South African National Youth Orchestra – Photo by Cornel van Heerden.

This year the National Youth Orchestra boasts a whole series of courses and programmes for young orchestral musicians under the age of 25, which help to equip young people with the skills to perform in a professional musical environment, and introduce them to a necessary network of fellow musicians.


In May, a selection of National Youth Orchestra musicians will play for Umculo’s production of Bach’s St John Passion, directed by acclaimed opera director and tenor, Kobie van Rensburg, in Johannesburg.

The National Youth Orchestra 2018 meets in Bloemfontein in the June/July holidays for our Winter Course; and in Pretoria and Johannesburg in August, in an historic partnership, the orchestra for 2018 will have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to have a side-by-side 5-day Immersion Experience with the Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra, the first major American orchestra to tour to South Africa, and their internationally acclaimed conductor, Osmo Vänskä. Vänskä returns to South Africa for the first time since conducting our 50th anniversary concerts in 2014. The Minnesota Orchestra will give master classes, the orchestras will play chamber music together, have a day of side-by-side rehearsals, and our young musicians will have the opportunity to expand their musical network, while learning from some of the best musicians in the world. As a bonus the young musicians will also attend one of the Minnesota Orchestra’s performances on their tour that includes Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Soweto and Pretoria.

The December Summer Course for the ever-popular National Youth Wind Orchestra will be in Cape Town this year.

There are special projects including the What It Takes courses for individual instruments, arts administration internships, a Words on Music course for writers, and young composer projects, that run throughout the year.

These courses are filled with challenges and fun for the young musicians and open up a world of musical and other opportunities.

To make the courses open to all who wish to attend, bursaries, scholarships and payment plans are available. Applications are now open, and can be completed online on their website at Young musicians wishing to apply must play an orchestral instrument, be of at least Grade 7 music level, be 25 years old or younger in 2018, and be a resident of South Africa. Applications close on 23 February 2018.

As National Youth Orchestra patron Archbishop Tutu explains: “Music is important in the lives of young people, it is rare not to see a young person engrossed in music. The National Youth Orchestra is important because it opens up another world of music to the youth. It allows them to become makers of the music not just listeners. Youth in South Africa have so many opportunities available to them and my hope is that they are able to engage themselves fully in these opportunities.”

If you are able to sponsor a young musician or contribute to the bursary fund in any way, please email Sophia on or call 083 272 2117. We are grateful for support from the SABC Foundation, Academy of Sound Engineering and the Department of Arts and Culture who make our auditions possible.

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