Our History

NYSO's founder, Viviane Ronchetti

 Viviane Ronchetti - Founder

This is an article by NYSO's founder, Viviane Ronchetti* about NYSO*. It first appeared in the programme for the 5th Anniversary concert in 2000.

The National ISCis Strings Academy - NISA* was set up five years ago for string players by string players, the emphasis being on doing things the string player's way. Years of working as a professional string player and teaching young string players has convinced me that string players are really a breed apart. One of the most annoying things to hear - and one hears it often - is:

...It doesn't matter if the string parts are too hard for them - the brass will cover the worst bits.

I think this sentence alone was the starting point for NISA*.

I wanted to introduce the pleasure of good string orchestra playing and the glories of the string repertoire to young string players in the hope that it would inspire in them the same enthusiasm that it always had in me. I wanted the results to be as professional as possible in an environment that was encouraging and inspiring, giving maximum confidence to the individual player. To succeed I knew I had to establish an organisation that could provide first class training from people who had spent their professional lives playing the chamber orchestra repertoire, and to ensure that the coaching staff were able to make a regular commitment so that we could build over time. I also needed to make sure that the fees required to achieve this would not have to passed on in full to the students.

First I approached Audrey Butler, then headmistress of Queenswood School, Hatfield, where I am currently Head of Instrumental Music*, with my idea and she introduced me to David Woodhead, Director of National ISCis[*] - the independent schools information service. Audrey offered Queenswood school with its excellent recreational and music facilities as a regular centre for the courses and the National ISCis[*] set about mailing information about the orchestra to their many members as well as investigating ways to raise sponsorship for the group from various sources. I then spoke to colleagues in the music profession - Roger Garland, Brian Hawkins, Maureen Parrington, Chika Robertson, Denis Vigay and John Gray to test their reaction and received one hundred percent support, which has continued ever since. In fact without that support, together with continuing help and encouragement from the National ISCis[*] during the last five years the organisation could never have survived.

By July 1995, I had the coaching staff, the venue, some financial support and a lot of good will and we set about encouraging students to come to NISA and try out the experience. We ran two weekends at Queenswood in October 1995 with an appearance at Earls Court Olympia as our debut performance. Everything went as well as we could possibly have hoped and we were set fair for 1996.

In 1996 we experimented with a working pattern which we are still using to good effect now. The last weekend of the February half-term provides time for trying out and learning repertoire from which we can devise a concert program for the main concert of the year. This always takes a lot of thought as we have quite a mixture of ability in the group. We recommend Grade 7 or 8 as a starting point for audition but we have many students who are far in advance of this standard. Consequently, our first task is to select a programme that has aspects which are accessible to all with proper training but that holds musical as well as technical challenges for the more advanced students. Therefore programmes must include a mixture of styles. Highlights from public performances in the last five years have included a sizzling Tchaikovsky Serenade at St James's Piccadily in 1996; a very intense Elgar Introduction and Allegro at Queenswood School in 1997; a really professional Dvorak Serenade at St James's Piccadily in August 1998; some stunning Bartok Divertimento and Elgar Serenade for Strings in Washington DC in 1999.

Sir Neville Marriner agreed to become a patron of NISA[*] in 1997 and conducted a sensational concert at St John's, Smith Square in July 2000. Our list of patrons has now expanded to include Mark Elder, Dr Jane Glover, Ivey Dickson and David Takeno.


* Viviane Ronchetti has since retired from National Youth Strings Academy
* NYSA is now National Youth String Orchestra
* NISA is now the National Youth Strings Academy (NYSA)
* National ISCis is now the Independent Schools Council (ISC)
* Viviane Ronchetti has since retired from Queenswood School

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