National Orchestra for All: Meet Matthew

Without NOFA, I certainly wouldn’t be who I am today. So this begs the question... who could YOU be as part of the #NOFAmily?

As we begin to receive nominations for the National Orchestra for All’s 2019-2020 season, we hear from NOFA Ambassador Matthew about his experience as a NOFA member.

Can you remember your first course as a NOFA Member?

I first came across NOFA when my secondary school music teacher brought our class along to the 2016 North West Modulo meet, where we performed in the Barbirolli Room at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. After this, my music teacher put me and some of my peers forward for the National Orchestra, and we were accepted! 

Take a look at Matthew’s first experience with Orchestras for All as part of the Modulo Programme in 2016:

In the summer of the same year, we met at the Leeds University campus which is where we stayed for the week. The course was certainly out of the ordinary for me: It was the first time I participated in any sort of residential course outside of secondary school, and seeing so many instruments in person for the first time was truly fascinating! A lot of my most treasured NOFA memories came from this course, the earliest of which was meeting current NOFA Ambassador Edward Sharpe and NOFA Member Thomas Smith at registration, who welcomed me with open arms! Other things that have stuck with me are the experience of living in university accommodation, playing games with the pastoral group in the evenings and playing an Astor Piazzolla solo at the recital evening— solo performance being something that was previously a very rare opportunity for me! The course came to a close with a performance of music by a variety of composers, including Steven Sondheim and Igor Stravinsky, at the First Direct Arena for an incredible audience. The feeling of walking off stage and meeting everyone in the green rooms is something I'll never forget and was definitely an experience which ignited my love for performance.

In the Winter of 2016, members closer to the north of England met in York to compose some new music inspired by the repertoire played at the summer course. For a lot of members, the idea of composing music without pencil and paper (or Sibelius for that matter) and then memorising it for a performance is very daunting. However, Fraser Trainer— who leads a lot of the workshops at these winter sessions— made the process incredibly engaging and it soon occurred to me that: 'yes, this is something I can do!' By this time of year, I had already made close friends with a number of members and playing music together again was incredibly rewarding! 

At the 2017 Spring course, the entire orchestra came together in London to perform a new piece called 'Embers', which was a culmination of the ideas that had come out of the winter sessions. With a very interesting venue (an underground space called 'Ambika P3') and intriguing exploration of visual art— with artist Somang Lee providing live responses to the music— this part of the season was really where everything came together. The whole orchestra had contributed to something amazing, something more than a grade exam; everyone played a part in creating this piece of art. 

Put it this way: this 16 year old kid from Oldham was UNDER London, playing in a ~100 piece orchestra. Sounds unique, right?

As one of our NOFA Ambassadors this year, what have you been up to?

On NOFA courses, the ambassadors work with staff to ensure that everyone is having a positive experience, feedback any constructive criticisms from the members themselves, and organise a variety of evening activities to make sure the members make the most out of their time with NOFA!

However, life with NOFA doesn't end when you're back at the train station! The ambassadors also had an online meeting with NOFA staff in preparation for the 2018 Winter courses and to discuss the theme of NOFA's 2019-2020 season ('My Roots, Our Routes'). More recently, we have been helping with the adjudication of composition proposals for next year— there were some fantastic submissions, and the results are soon to be finalised! 

Other than this, I've been working with composer Dom Willis, who studies on the Joint Course at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) and University of Manchester (UoM), discussing different ways in which repertoire that NOFA has studied in the past could be looked at in a completely different light— more details to come! 

What would you say to anyone thinking about taking part in NOFA? 

In 2019, I'm participating in my third season with NOFA. I'm currently unbelievably fortunate to be studying Music on the Joint Course at the RNCM and UoM, and I would never be in this position if it weren't for NOFA. NOFA gave me the drive to search for local ensembles and to connect with some amazing musicians. NOFA has given me some absolutely crucial opportunities which have made me a more confident performer, as well as a more pragmatic musician. 3 years ago, the idea of playing in such a large ensemble never even crossed my mind. Now, I play regularly in orchestras and small ensembles and I absolutely love it 

Without NOFA, I certainly wouldn't be who I am today. So this begs the question... who could YOU be as part of the #NOFAmily?

If you are interested in taking part in the National Orchestra for All or know a young musician who you think could benefit from this experience, visit our National Orchestra for All page for more details.