In the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic and in a year characterised by social distancing and economic upheaval, Melbourne Youth Orchestras (MYO) is playing on. In an unparalleled online learning opportunity for young Victorian musicians, Melbourne Youth Orchestras launches MYO UNLIMITED.
In March, for the first time in its 53-year history, MYO put its in-person rehearsals on hold and launched its new digital offering, MYO UNLIMITED – allowing this music institution to continue to provide an engaging, inspiring and ongoing music education to more than 500 young musicians across metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.
“We brought the entire team together including our office team, board of directors, conductors, music educators and orchestra managers,” said MYO Chief Executive Officer Dorian Jones. “Together we recognised that many of our young musicians would be feeling isolated from their communities and MYO, and that we needed to rapidly find a way to give them access to ongoing quality music education, inspiration and engagement.”
“We knew we didn’t want them stuck in front of screens, and that they would already be challenged by adapting to remote school learning, so we were focussed on providing fun, musical stimulation, and encouragement for each young musician to get off the computer and onto their instrument.”
MYO UNLIMITED offers an online music education that brings together the best elements of the MYO Ensemble Program for participants at home. In addition to the online weekly ensemble rehearsals, MYO UNLIMITED includes an exciting series of masterclasses with principal musicians of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra – MYO’s education partner.
The program also includes open digital stages – where members can perform for their peers; Listen Lounges with MYO Music Director Brett Kelly and invited international guests; and continued access to the Prelude Program – a VCE extension program delivered by MYO in partnership with the University of Melbourne.
As part of this digital initiative, the entire student body is, under the guidance of Brett Kelly, working on a special recording project with composer-arranger Sean O’Boyle. To be revealed in October, this project is an opportunity for MYO’s students to perform as a collective, in spite of Victoria’s physical distancing restrictions. While the exact details are under wraps for now, suffice to say this project contains many exciting surprises.
“To capture the endless surprises of 2020 MYO has commissioned a special arrangement from Sean O’Boyle to showcase all our nine ensembles and orchestras,” says Kelly. “500 talented young musicians will draw on not just their playing, but also their imagination and creative skills. Full of fun and excitement “A Very Surprising Symphony” will be a delight for the ear and the eye – MYO’s poignant, powerful and positive postcard from a year like no other.”
MYO’s story is one of an arts and education institution prevailing in the face of COVID-19’s many difficulties. By transforming into MYO UNLIMITED, MYO and its program partners have successfully provided hundreds of young Victorian musicians with a sense of continuity and normalcy. Though apart for now, the program allows participants continued access to high-level music education and ensemble music making online.
As Victoria’s largest non-school provider of music education MYO has been bringing 8-25 year-olds together to participate in ensemble music-making since 1967. MYO’s students come from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds and many travel from Victorian rural and regional centres.
Guided by energetic conductors and skilled educators, over 1500 students annually progress through a structured program that includes string orchestras, symphony orchestras and symphonic bands.
For more information about Melbourne Youth Orchestras and MYO UNLIMITED, visit: www.myo.org.au for details.
Image: A participant at MYO’s Summer School program – photo by Meredith O’Shea