Our History

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 and hosted on the beautiful campus and against the backdrop of the spectacular Malvern Hills. David Evans was its founding Artistic Director, followed in 2014 by John Madden, with Nicole Wilson taking over as Artistic Director in 2022.



NSSO has always appointed experienced, 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, Peter Bridle MBE and Principal Conductor of the Royal College of Music Junior Department, Richard Dickins.

NSSO conductors for 2023 include Leandro Silvera, Head of Strings at Eton College, Dave McCallum of the BBC Concert Orchestra and Andy McDade, professor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

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 NSSO 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.

Over the years NSSO has grown to include 3 orchestras ranging from the Academy- a training orchestra for grade 3-5, the Sinfonia – a full size symphony orchestra for grades 5-7 and the Philharmonic for the most experienced and senior players for students who are grade 7 up to and beyond diploma level.

Joining NSSO offers each student an inspirational journey, progressing over the years through the orchestras. Once you have won a place on a NSSO course, you remain a member for subsequent years up to and including age 17. Members are not required to re-audition each year.

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).

This year sees the launch of the National Schools Big Band, led by lead saxophonist of the Syd Lawrence and Glenn Miller UK bands and member of the John Wilson Orchestra, Colin Skinner. Colin brings with him a stellar team of tutors to coach students in music from the golden era of Swing up to the present day.

NSSO’s annual residential course is a great fit for those talented individuals with wide-ranging interests and commitments for whom music is important but not always a career or higher education goal.

Our orchestras provide a programme of individual instrumental coaching with professional tutors, the experience of playing in smaller ensembles, sectional and full rehearsals, culminating in a final day of concerts for parents and friends at Malvern College.

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If you have an enquiry about any aspect of NSSO please feel free to get in touch:

NSSO, Malvern College, College Road, Malvern, WR14 3DF

T: 01684 581695

E: hello@nsso.org

Latest News

Welcome from NSSO’s new Artistic Director Nicole Wilson March 20, 2022

When Malvern College approached me to take over from the wonderful John Madden as artistic director for NSSO, I was thrilled to bits! Music courses were the highlight of my childhood. I lived from course to course with an actual count down on my wall to see how many sleeps until the next time I […]

A warm welcome from Leandro Silvera for NSSO Sinfonia members 2021 June 11, 2021

Dear NSSO Sinfonia 2021. I’m absolutely delighted that we will finally be able to meet in person this summer at Malvern College. It will be an amazing course! We have all missed playing together in orchestras (one thing that Zoom can never offer us!) so it will be a pleasure to see you all again […]

A warm welcome from Richard Dickins for NSSO Philharmonic members 2021 June 11, 2021

Hello NSSO Philharmonic members 2021. I’m thrilled that this year we can, after all, meet in person to make music at Malvern College. It will be a pleasure to see again those of you who have been on the course in previous years, and it will also be a great pleasure meeting the many new […]