The Bellingen Youth Orchestra (BYO) was formed after a visit from Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra in 2007 and has continued its relationship with the ACO. The BYO is a unique group, whose significant achievements can be attributed to the work of Bellingen’s outstanding music teachers, whose enthusiasm continues to make this highly popular orchestra possible.

The Bellingen Youth Orchestra’s varied repertoire includes standard orchestral pieces and popular film music scores. Some of the highlights have been performing Grieg’s Piano Concerto, George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and “The Warsaw Concerto” with local pianist David Helfgott, and performing with the Acacia Quartet at the 2014 and 2015 Bellingen Music Festival.

Ann Phelan is the musical director of the Bellingen Youth Orchestra. She has been conducting the BYO since its inauguration in 2007. Originally from Sydney, Ann has quite a history of orchestral conducting. She was the Instrumental Music Consultant for the NSW Department of Education during which time she conducted student orchestras including the Lane Cove Youth Orchestra and the Combined Public Schools Orchestra which toured Europe in 1998 performing at the Society for Music Education in Amsterdam.  As the general manager of the Sydney Youth Orchestra Association she lead them on their first overseas tour to the United States.  Ann has always delighted in conducting youth groups. “They have a greater spontaneity and an enthusiastic sound which is hard to find in mature players,” she says.

In 2011 Ann won a ‘Special Commendation’ for music education – one of the most prestigious awards for music teaching in Australia. In 2013, 2014 and 2015 Ann took the Bellingen High School String Orchestra to Sydney Opera House to perform as a solo item at the NSW public schools Choral Festival.

The Bellingen Youth Orchestra is proving to be a wonderful training ground for Bellingen’s talented young musicians with some players past and present extending into such programs as the Australian Youth Orchestra and ACO Academy, and some continuing their studies at Tertiary Level.