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Teen tuba player one of only 158 musicians across the country to be selected for prestigious National Youth Orchestra

Seventeen-year-old Isaac Giaever-Enger, from Speen, recently received some great news. Having played the tuba for eight years, he has just been awarded a place in the “world’s greatest orchestra of teenagers”, the National Youth Orchestra. One of only 158 musicians across the entire country to be selected, “I am delighted to be representing Newbury in our national team this year,” he tells arts editor TRISH LEE


“WE will come together through our love of music, our commitment and talents in a cutting-edge orchestra that speaks to our generation.

“We will become inspirational changemakers, through performances, sharing and exchanging skills and will play our part in shaping the future of orchestral music,” said Isaac.

In 2024 the orchestra will perform in three concert tours across the country, from Liverpool to London, Saffron Walden to Manchester.

“We will share our love of music with other young people and audiences.

“Every musician in the orchestra, including myself, also plays a role in encouraging, supporting and championing our peers.

“Throughout the year we will work with more than 1,000 musicians through NYO Inspire and reach many more teenagers through NYO Open projects with partners across the music education sector.”

NYO 2023 Newcastle Residency
NYO 2023 Newcastle Residency

When and why did you choose the tuba?

At the end of Year 4, when I was nine, it was my turn to choose an instrument.

My two older sisters were already learning orchestral instruments and I had been to concerts and spotted the tuba.

I wasn’t very confident – I wanted to play, but not be seen, so I chose the tuba as I thought I would be able to hide behind it at the back of the orchestra.

It wasn’t until I was asked to play a solo in a concert at the Corn Exchange that I realised that the tuba could also be a way to express myself and that other people might like to hear it on its own.

How does the National Youth Orchestra selection process work?

You apply online by filling in a form and asking for an audition.

Most instruments have more than one round of auditions, but luckily, the tuba only has one.

On the day of the audition, you go to your venue – I went to the Guildhall in London.

The audition is all day – it’s like going for a job interview, really.

There were about 50 other young musicians there on my day. They all played different brass instruments.

To start with, there was a group session in which we had a discussion about music. During the rest of the day, we did some group playing, a solo audition and a creative workshop.

So how did you feel when you heard you had been awarded a place?

I was really surprised when I heard I had a place. I thought the other tuba players were more experienced than me and that I hadn’t done as well as I would have liked in my solo audition.

I was really humbled when I realised I had been awarded the principal role: I couldn’t believe it.

What is it like to play with the cream of the country's young musicians?

First of all, it’s a massive privilege to be part of such a diverse community who come from across the whole country.

We have such different backgrounds and life experiences but are bound together by our love of music.

When you play in an orchestra, you have your own seat and sound, but at the same time, there’s a mutual understanding between you all.

It’s almost intimate, even though you don’t necessarily know everyone really well.

You get this feeling and you know everyone else in the orchestra has the same one – that you’re about to deliver something completely cohesive.

And the audience hears it all – at once. It’s like a tapestry where each individual is a thread; each section a colour and what it seen is a beautiful image.

What kind of music will you play?

We will be playing a wide range of classical music. In January, we will be playing Strauss, Debussy and a new commission.

What music do you listen to when ‘off duty’?

I listen to all kinds of music. Yesterday, I listened to The Planet Suite by Holst three times in a row!

I also really like Jacob Collier because he is so cool. He has mastered music so that it it simply part of who he is – completely at his fingertips.

He combines pop music with orchestral instruments and techniques, creating a unique sound that brings music to life.

I do also love a bit of jazz – I like how those who are good at it sound so free in their playing.

Does the classical repertoire appeal to young people?

It should – it could – young people of today have so much licence to express themselves and to explore their emotions and feelings through the wide range of popular music.

For example, there’s a lot of drum and bass music around which does speak to emotions and young people do find connection there.

But I think that if young people looked to classical music they might also catch a glimpse of a reflection of themselves and connect in a really deep and meaningful way.

That’s what the composers of classical music are doing – expressing emotions and drawing pictures through sound.

How will you draw young people who’ve never attended concerts before?

Well, the young musicians of NYO are all about trying to inspire and ignite the curiosity of young people in concerts.

Over the year, tickets to our concerts are free for teenagers and there will be a live stream in collaboration with the Barbican Centre in London.

Additionally, we will be touring around secondary schools, and will be taking our music into our local primary schools as well.

NYO also does quite a lot of social media content to appeal to young people.

What do you expect to gain from the experience?

I am excited to learn some leadership skills which I will be able to transfer into other areas of my life. I know I will make loads of friends… some of whom may well become famous one day.

Obviously, I want to learn more about playing my tuba and get better. I think I will learn a lot about life this year.

What excites you most about the coming year?

Playing with the other tubas in the section (as there aren’t many of us in Berkshire), and travelling around the country seeing different places.

I’m also excited to learn from some amazingly experienced tutors who specialise in my instrument.

Are you looking to a career in music or will it simply be for pleasure?

I’ve been thinking recently that I would like a career in music.

I’d love to be involved in it when I get older, ideally in a professional orchestra.

I’d really like to be able to inspire younger people like I have been.

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