Some thirty years ago, David Price, a member of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and violin teacher at both Dulwich College and Dulwich College Preparatory School, thought that it would be nice to encourage his pupils to play with others during the holidays to gain some orchestral experience. Ninety courses later, Dulwich Youth Orchestra (DYO) continues to flourish, meeting every holiday for five days of rehearsals in one of the local schools.Ranging from seven to eighteen in age, and from piccolo to double bass, musicians are coached by a team of expert teachers and professional players. They are coached to a high standard in a wide variety of musical styles: recent performances included music by Mozart, Dvorak, Delibes, Holst and the music to ‘Lord of the Rings’!

The final concert is a showcase of the different groups – the String Ensemble for younger players; the Wind Band, which of course includes brass players and percussionists as well as wind players of every variety; the Senior Orchestra for the more advanced players, which fluctuates from chamber orchestra to symphony orchestra in size; and a final item by the ‘Great Orchestra’, in the hallowed British tradition of massed performance in which all participate!

For many Dulwich families, DYO has become a popular holiday activity, the courses being short and intensive - mornings only - enabling other commitments or relaxation for the rest of the day. It is for many a ‘first orchestral experience’ although high standards are constantly sought and achieved, and for the older, more experienced, the repertoire is more demanding, with solo or concerto opportunities arising. Over the years excerpts from major concertos by Grieg, Bruch and Elgar have been presented, but interesting unusual repertoire is also chosen, such as the Moscheles Concertino for Flute and Oboe.

Many, many young musicians have ‘cut their teeth’ at DYO; for some it is simply a part of the kaleidoscope of Dulwich life, hopefully giving them a long lasting passion for musical activity (and London has wonderful opportunities for the amateur musician given a reasonable level of competence!) but for others it has been the start of a very serious interest – one young lady who went on to the National Youth Orchestra and Cambridge University said ‘You know it really was DYO that woke me up, musically speaking’, and many former members have gone on through music colleges or university to successful careers in music.

Barbara Dalton, Tim and Gill Hewitt-Jones, have now been together for sixteen years, and with their overlapping skills and local knowledge, have a good sense of the possible when it comes to planning programmes for performance. Barry Graham joined the team in December 2009. Barbara Dalton, formerly at DCPS and now Director of Music at Alleyn’s Junior School, is the Musical Director of DYO. All four have taken a keen interest in musical education, and sincerely believe that introducing music of good taste to young people at an early age is a vital ingredient in a civilized society!

Some DYO facts

  • DYO was started in the early 1970s by a group of local music teachers
  • Several of our current players are also members of the National Children’s Orchestra
  • Many are members or have gone on to join LSSO
  • One member this year and two members last year won places with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain – we think there are about 15+ who have done so
  • An ex-member has been commissioned to write the music for the 2012 Olympics
  • There are children on our courses whose parents were members in the 70s
  • One of the 2010 BBC Young Musician String Finalists was a member
  • Several ex DYO members have won scholarships to the London Conservatoires