Armidale Youth Orchestra looks for old members and new recruits in 50th year

YOUNG MUSICIANS: Russell Bauer rehearsing the Armidale Youth Orchestras.  Photo: Nicholas Fuller.
YOUNG MUSICIANS: Russell Bauer rehearsing the Armidale Youth Orchestras. Photo: Nicholas Fuller.

The world 50 years ago was a time of bold new ideas.  While students marched in France and the USA, calling for revolution, in quieter New England, the Armidale Youth Orchestra was founded – its passion musical performance rather than politics.

Since 1968, the AYO has fostered orchestral talents and young musicians in Armidale, drawing eight to 21-year-old students from across the region.

“It would be unusual to go into a region like ours and find a youth orchestra that has been running that long,” Russell Bauer, musical director and head of the New England Conservatorium of Music (NECOM), said.

“This obviously has the backing of the community, so in the 50th year we want to build on that.“

The AYO comprises the Armidale Youth Orchestra, the Armidale String Orchestra, and the Armidale Youth Wind Ensemble.  Although affiliated with NECOM since their foundation 15 years ago, it remains self-administered.

The AYO plans to start an alumni register.  It has photographs taken over the last few decades – but putting names to faces may be tricky. The photos come from a pre-digital age, and records may have been scattered or lost.

Mr Bauer appealed to community members to help identify past players.

“We'd like the public to be engaged and actually help us identify the people.  We'd love it if people put their hand up, and say, 'That's actually me on the second clarinet!’

“If we can get 15 or 20 people identified in the photos, then of course, this being the age of Facebook and Instagram, I'm sure that a network will build from there, and people will start to tag other people in their posts.”

Mr Bauer also asked the public to share AYO-related photos and memorabilia.

“There could be families out there that have a treasured programme from a concert 40 years ago.  I'm not saying donate it to us, but at least could you bring it in so we can make a good copy of it?  We'd love to have some of that information, or you might have photos yourself that we don't have access to.  If you can find any information about the AYO's past, we'd love to hear from you!”

Armidale Youth Orchestras rehearsing Rossini's "Barber of Seville" overture, conducted by Russell Bauer.

While the AYO is trying to identify old players, it’s also looking for budding young ones. 

The AYO is particularly after violinists, violists, cellists, double bass players, trombonists, French horn players, bassoonists, clarinettists, and tuba players.

“We want to get this orchestra, which always floats around 45 to 55 piece, up to that classic 85 to 90 piece, true symphonic force.”

Auditions are open until June.  Students who play any orchestral instruments – particularly if they're around a Grade 5 AMEB or Trinity or higher - should contact NECOM.

“Even if it has to be filmed on a mobile phone and emailed to us,” Mr Bauer promised, “we’ll listen to that and make an assessment!”

The public can enjoy the AYO’s performances throughout the year.  It will hold its annual garden party at Chevy Chase in April.  Its big event this year, though, is its “Birthday Bash” in August, which will be a concert of celebratory, declamatory pieces well-known to the public, such as the triumphal march from Verdi’s “Aida”, and the brilliant overture to Rossini’s “Barber of Seville”.

The Armidale Youth Orchestras can be contacted via their website at, or by emailing 

NECOM can be contacted by ringing 02 6788 2135, or emailing


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