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 Helfgot and last year’s world premiere performance of Wuuban Barri, a work by local composer Paul Jarman, specially commissioned by the Bellingen Music Festival as part of the Music- By-Youth project.

This year, the Festival has commissioned popular young composer Sally Whitwell for this year’s original composition, which will be premiered by the Bellingen Youth Orchestra at the opening concert on Friday.
Just recently (March 23), Sally wrote on her Facebook page: “Spent two very productive hours with about twenty kids from Bellingen High school. They wrote a theme out of which shall emerge a brand-new piece for their orchestra. Can’t wait to get stuck into some writing this afternoon!”

Ann Phelan is the musical director of the Bellingen Youth Orchestra and has been its conductor since its inauguration. Originally from Sydney, Ann has quite a history of orchestral conducting, having had many a student orchestra under her baton including the Lane Cove Youth Orchestra and the Combined Public Schools Orchestra which toured Europe in 1998. 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.

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.