Ulster Youth Orchestra Ulster Hall


About Us

The Ulster Youth Orchestra aims to develop young people through music by providing a creative, nurturing and inclusive environment in which talented, young musicians enhance their personal and musical development by receiving the highest standard of musical tuition, orchestral experience, and performance opportunities, thereby enriching the social and cultural life of Northern Ireland.

Now celebrated as one of the leading youth orchestras in the UK, the award-winning Ulster Youth Orchestra was initiated by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in October 1993. Working in close association with the Education Authority, the organisation brings together the most talented young instrumentalists aged 14-23 from throughout Northern Ireland for residential courses and concerts, CD recordings, special projects, workshops and events. The Ulster Youth Orchestra provides the highest level of musical training from leading professional musicians and distinguished conductors.

The Ulster Youth Orchestra is a cross-community organisation. Annual auditions ensure the young players are selected purely on the basis of musical ability regardless of religion or social background.

The orchestra brings the remarkable chance for our best young musicians to take on an ambassadorial role for Northern Ireland in the national and international concert world.

Since the first course in August 1994, the orchestra has involved approximately 2000 young musicians from all sections of the community and played to total audiences of over 15,000 in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, England, Scotland and Germany.
Performances have been broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM. In 2000 it won the prestigious international arts award; the Premiale Imperial from the Japan Arts Association.

UYO Greenmount 170822 JC218
UYO Ulster Hall 200822 JC069

Our vision

To provide an environment in which talented, young musicians can further their musical potential and develop their personal and social skills.
To enrich the social and cultural life of Northern Ireland.
To act as ambassadors for Northern Ireland’s young people when performing in national and international venues

Our values

To achieve its vision, the UYO will be mindful of the following core values in the delivery of all its activities:
To provide consistently high standards of musical education by having leading conductors, performers and music teachers from around the world give musical tuition, conduct masterclasses and workshops, and guide and oversee the orchestral experience.
To recruit the most talented, young musicians – whether or not they intend to pursue a career in music – and to ensure access for all by providing bursaries for those who lack the economic means to participate.
To ensure that members are drawn from all the communities and cultural traditions in Northern Ireland, and to help this diverse group develop mutual understanding and friendships through working together and sharing learning experiences.
To give members the opportunity to communicate their talents to the widest possible audience, acting as ambassadors for classical music within Ulster and beyond.
To enrich the social and cultural life of Northern Ireland by giving young composers the opportunity to develop new work and have it publicly performed.


The Outreach Series consolidates the Ulster Youth Orchestra’s position within the Northern Irish youth arts infrastructure by increasing the regional visibility of its work and encouraging young musicians to continue to develop their musical skills. The UYO Outreach Series strengthens links with the regional Education Authority Music Services and schools.

The UYO acknowledges the key role that is played by the Music Services of Northern Ireland and schools in providing excellent education for young musicians. However, these services are often cash-strapped and cannot afford to deliver enhancements to their regular programme of activity. The UYO supports the work of the Music Services and engages in sectoral forums every year with the Heads of the Music Services and senior staff to discuss and plan special, additional music projects in their area boards. On the premise that the UYO and the regional Music Services can work together effectively, and having the mutual desire to equip and enable young musicians to realize their artistic ambitions, UYO crafts and resources relevant Outreach Series projects which deliver the highest quality tuition. Our tutors are professional musicians from the UK’s finest orchestras or professors from UK music colleges. The Outreach Series is FREE to all who attend and is continually welcomed and acclaimed by its users. The enthusiasm and buzz on the day, and post-event evaluations, strongly affirm that the UYO helps to sustain and even awaken new vibrant interest in instrumental studies among Northern Ireland’s young musicians.

The UYO is a youth music provider which delivers high quality projects and offers professional development and training opportunities for teachers and tutors. Consequently, we find that our Outreach Series projects have invariably an added dimension. Our guest artists are always highly-esteemed experts with huge professional experience, gifted teachers and exceptionally talented exponents of their chosen instruments. While our Outreach Series programmes are directed specifically to young people, we find that many local teachers attend and benefit from the shared experience and the opportunity to learn from musicians of this calibre.


Collaborations and Partnerships

The Ulster Youth Orchestra is proud to work alongside many of Northern Ireland’s finest musical organisations.

The Hard Rain SoloistEnsemble is the only professional musical group in Northern Ireland to specialise in the performance of modern and contemporary repertoire. The UYO is proud to have an ongoing relevant and significant high quality partnership with the Hard Rain SoloistEnsemble to include contemporary music workshops and their Hard Rain Young Artist scheme.

The Ulster Orchestra offers exclusive opportunities each year for UYO members to learn from Northern Ireland’s only professional symphony orchestra. The annual open rehearsal gives our young members the unique and exciting opportunity to watch the Ulster Orchestra rehearse under the baton of UO chief conductor Rafael Payare or Principal Guest Conductor Jac van Steen. To see conductors of this calibre in rehearsal with a professional orchestra is access to excellence that few young people in Northern Ireland would ordinarily have the chance to experience. 2017 saw a unique side-by-scheme launched to enabling the most talented members of UYO to benefit from mentoring in a live rehearsal setting. 


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