Our Team

Our highly experienced team give purpose and direction to the National Schools Symphony Orchestra, whilst helping to create an environment in which our members can thrive. NSSO provides children with the opportunity to experience the joy and fun of orchestras, often opening a lifelong connection to performing, whilst also encouraging creativity and boosting a child’s learning.

National Schools Symphony Orchestra

John Madden

Artistic Director

John hails from Liverpool, where he was a chorister at the Anglican cathedral, and read music at Selwyn College, Cambridge.

He is a composer, conductor and keyboard player and was Director of Music for over thirty years in a number of schools, including Hutcheson’s Grammar School in Glasgow, Radley College and the Dragon, Oxford.

John provides the musical leadership for NSSO and has overseen significant growth in its membership and profile over the last ten years. In 2021, he will conduct NSSO Academy and the newly established non-residential courses in July and October. He also continues to compose and arrange music, largely to commission, and his work is published by OUP, RSCM, Novello’s and Breitkopf & Hartel.

National Schools Symphony Orchestra
National Schools Symphony Orchestra
National Schools Symphony Orchestra

Richard Dickins

Principal Conductor

Richard studied conducting with the late Norman Del Mar and subsequently worked as Del Mar’s assistant on many occasions with orchestras such as the Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic and Bournemouth Symphony.

Since then he has built an enviable reputation working with orchestras throughout the UK including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, London Mozart Players and Ulster Orchestra. Richard is well known for his work with young musicians. He became conductor of the Symphony Orchestra at Imperial College London whilst still a student and was later appointed the College’s first Director of Music, a post which he filled with great distinction for almost 40 years.

A graduate of the Royal College of Music, he maintains his links with the RCM where he was principal conductor of the Junior Department for over twenty years.

National Schools Symphony Orchestra

Leandro Silvera

Conductor of NSSO Sinfonia

Leandro was born in Argentina, graduated from the Buenos Aires Conservatoire and won a British Council Scholarship to study at the Royal Northern College of Music. He moved to London in 2005 to become Head of Strings at King’s College School Wimbledon. He now holds the same post at Eton College, where he conducts the Symphony Orchestra and directs an extensive programme of chamber music, as well as teaching cello.

He has been Head of Chamber Music at the Royal College of Music Junior Department since 2014 and guest conductor of a number of youth orchestras, as well as running the Hannah Roberts Summer Cello Masterclasses.

National Schools Symphony Orchestra
NSSO Conductor
NSSO Conductor

David Smith

Conductor of NSSO Big Band

David has worked with NSSO for a decade. He has directed NSSO Academy, as well as tutoring the clarinets and saxophones. Jazz has always been a significant part of his musical life and he will direct the new NSSO Big Band.

Whilst still performing regularly on radio and TV, he has a deep commitment to inspiring young musicians to develop their skills. He worked in senior schools for many years, conducting and building instrumental music, before joining the Dragon School as Head of Instrumental Studies in 2007.

He has taught pupils from beginner to diploma level, established new ensembles within the schools and raised the standard of performance, worked as a consultant on saxophone and clarinet publications and is the featured soloist on Christopher Norton’s Clarinet and Saxophone Concert Collections, currently on the ABRSM repertoire lists. He has also coached and performed with leading jazz and classical musicians in the UK and has been Head of Woodwind for Uppingham Summer School.

Bjorn Bantock

Director of NSSO Conducting Course

Bjorn studied conducting with Colin Metters, at the Royal Academy of Music and his main influences include Ilya Musin, Nikolai Malko and Elizabeth Green. He is currently completing a book on conducting technique, Circles in the Air, and enjoys an international career as both conductor and teacher.

He is principal conductor of the Irish Memory Orchestra, the London Chamber Strings and the Huntingdonshire Philharmonic and works regularly in South Africa and Europe. He has also conducted the National Childrens Orchestra (NCO), and broadcast live for SABC Radio, the BBC and TV4 Ireland and recorded/produced for the King’s Way and EM record labels.

Bjorn regularly leads master classes at the Conservatoire in Stavanger, Norway, the Open Strings Course in Denmark, Pro Corda, ESTA and the Conservatoire at the University of Stellenbosch. He is currently Head of Strings at Bedford School.

Instrumental Tutors

The strength of any youth orchestra is the quality of coaching offered, both at an individual level and in sectional rehearsals. Our Heads of Section are the backbone of the course team. Highly experienced and respected performers and teachers themselves, they lead a team of individual instrumental coaches which ensures that our orchestras are well prepared and musically engaged throughout the course.

Stephen McDade

Head of Strings

Stephen trained at the Royal Academy of Music studying violin under Clarence Myerscough and tuba under Patrick Harrild and John Fletcher. He has been an active freelance violinist, playing with the RLPO and in many West End musicals, as well as solo and chamber music performances.

Before taking up his current position as Assistant Director of Music and Head of Strings at Malvern College, he was String Co-Coordinator for The Berkshire Young Musician’s Trust and Head of Strings at Dean Close School, Cheltenham.

Stephen had a long-standing involvement with the National Children’s Orchestra and was the principal conductor of ENCORE (the NCO alumni ensemble) for ten years.

National Schools Symphony Orchestra
National Schools Symphony Orchestra

Rebecca Wood

Head of Wind

Rebecca started playing the oboe at the age of seven, was a member of the National Youth Orchestra becoming Principal Oboe in her final year, and was also a woodwind finalist in the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 1992.

A graduate of the Royal Academy of Music she undertook post graduate studies at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, where she has been oboe professor in the Junior Department since 2010.  She has extensive performance experience, both as soloist and in various national orchestras and west end shows, and has coached and led the wind section of NSSO for many years.

National Schools Symphony Orchestra

Simon de Souza

Head of Brass

Simon studied horn with the virtuoso Ifor James at Colchester Institute, winning several prizes for chamber music, and pursued his postgraduate studies at Trinity College of Music in London.  He has a busy schedule as a freelance performer alongside a major commitment to the brass quintet Chaconne Brass, with whom he is frequently heard on radio and TV.

Simon has been the specialist horn tutor at Wells Cathedral School for twenty-five years, has the same position at the Junior Department of the Royal Academy and is also Professor of Horn at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. He has worked with NYO and NCO as well as being the Head of Brass for NSSO since the orchestra was founded.

National Schools Symphony Orchestra

Our Founder

National Schools Symphony Orchestra

David Evans

Founding Artistic Director

David has been involved in music education since the early 1980s. He worked for the IAPS Orchestral Board and subsequently founded the administration which was later to become NSSO, of which he was Artistic Director until 2014.

He is currently Director of Music at Hereford Cathedral School. NSSO is grateful to him for his vision and the energy which sustained the organisation through its first two decades.

National Schools Symphony Orchestra

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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 581640 // 01684 581616

E: hello@nsso.org

Latest News

Refer a friend March 19, 2021

If you love the National Schools Symphony Orchestra nearly as much as we do, we’d love for you to recommend us to fellow young musicians. When you refer us and both sign up to one of our 2021 courses, we’ll give you a £10 voucher for Amazon, as our way of saying thank you.   […]

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2019 Performances March 19, 2021

The National School Symphony Orchestra 2019 productions were a particularly memorable occasion as we celebrated our 25th Anniversary. Final productions were held in Birmingham Symphony Hall, with performances from our Academy, Sinfonia, Philharmonic Orchestras and Chorus.   2019 Repertoire Main Orchestra and Chorus: Verdi Requiem, conducted by Richard Dickins. NSSO Sinfonia: Joined by the talented young […]