National Schools Symphony Orchestra (UK)


The National Schools Symphony Orchestra (NSSO) was born in Suffolk in 1994 and gave its first concert at The Maltings Concert Hall in Snape, home of The Aldeburgh Festival, founded in 1948 by Benjamin Britten. Since February 2016 it has been operated by Malvern College, registered charity no 527578. David Evans was its founding Artistic Director and he was succeeded in 2014 by John Madden.

NSSO has always offered vital experience to those who aspire to membership of the National Youth Orchestra, bridging the gap between school or county orchestra and the NYO. It has also provided continuing opportunities to alumni of the National Children’s Orchestra (NCO). But its single annual residential course is very often a better fit for those talented individuals with wide ranging interests and commitments for whom music is important but possibly not a career or higher education goal. Our orchestras provide a programme of individual instrumental coaching with professional tutors, experience of playing in smaller ensembles, sectional and full rehearsals, culminating in a final concert in a significant public venue.

NSSO appoints experienced and internationally acclaimed professional conductors, skilled at relating to young people and able to make appropriate demands on them. In recent years these have included former ENO musical director Mark Shanahan, Bath Philharmonia principal conductor Jason Thornton and Peter Bridle MBE. In 2014 Richard Dickins was appointed Principal Conductor. He is Director of Music at Imperial College, London, and was for many years Principal Conductor of the Royal College of Music Junior Department. Richard is well known for his work with young musicians as well as his award winning TV and radio appearances and recordings.

The orchestra has also worked with leading soloists including Susan Bullock, Peter Donohoe, Ronan O’Hara and Tim Hugh. In 2013 it marked the Britten centenary with a wonderful account of his Violin Concerto with Tamsin Waley-Cohen. In 2014 Catherine Young (ENO) sang Elgar’s Sea Pictures with the orchestra at the Malvern Theatre.

The first National Schools Symphony Orchestra course brought together 78 young musicians at Snape and made a modest surplus of £28! Whilst numbers have remained remarkably constant over the years, standards have risen consistently and the orchestra has performed to growing audiences. It has also been able to offer support to large numbers of children whose parents need assistance to meet the fees for the annual course.

NSSO sits comfortably in the panoply of national provision for our most talented young players and welcomes applicants from across the UK to audition for its annual courses.


A. Bliss Suite from Things to Come
G. Wood Tuba Concerto
Tuba Andrew McDade
Conductor Richard Dickins