What's it like to be part of the National Orchestra for All?

We catch up with five of our long-serving members about to leave the orchestra this year and talk to them about what being part of NOFA - and being part of #myNOFAmily - means to them.

What has been your favourite thing about being part of NOFA?

Alannah (cellist from London, NOFA member since 2013): Making the most spectacular group of friends, who all share a love of music.

Matthew (flautist from Oldham, NOFA member since 2016): Being given the opportunity to play such sophisticated music in an incredible venue like Leeds Arena is a once in a lifetime opportunity... which NOFA has allowed me to do twice! This gathering of young musicians from across the UK has made for an unmatchable experience.

Dustin (violinist from London, NOFA member since 2012): Meeting new friends all over the country and sharing something in common: music.

Lucy (bass clarinettist from Durham, NOFA member since 2016): Working with other players and learning new music.

Beth (cornet player from Durham, NOFA member since 2013): Being able to be part of an orchestra and taking part in all the opportunities I've been given.

What has being part of NOFA taught you about yourself?

Alannah:  It has taught me that I can do a lot more than I think I can, if I approach it with confidence and give it my all.

Matthew: NOFA has revealed to me how I am able to express myself through music. It has helped me to recognise that music is a unifying entity, something that we can all have in common, and something that we can all participate in – despite skill set. NOFA has taught me to be more open, pragmatic and inventive.

Dustin: NOFA has taught me to confront challenges with your head held high. It has also taught me to not be afraid to express who I am.

Lucy: How much I like playing different types of music.

Beth: That I can be independent but still learn new things from others.

What advice would you give someone considering nominating a young person for NOFA membership? Why should they do it?

Alannah: You'll see that person develop both personally and musically in such a short space of time. NOFA can give you skills that you can use for the rest of your life.

Matthew: Why not?! NOFA has driven me in a direction I thought I’d never explore, inspiring me to pursue orchestral performance and a degree in Music. If the experience doesn’t go as far as impacting their career choices, it will still certainly build their social skills and prove to be an enjoyable journey.

Dustin: Go for it!!!! It literally changed my life in a sense that you get to know yourself better and make friends that you'll never think of. Not to mention that you get to travel around the country to perform.

Lucy: It's great fun and it's nice to meet so many new people.

Beth: Just nominate them. Don't think twice about it because it could be the best thing for them. It'll give them access to opportunities they never would have dreamed of. It also gives you good experience working with other musicians.

What advice would you give a young person joining NOFA for the first time this year?

Alannah: Everyone is just as nervous as you are (even the older ones!), so just smile and introduce yourself - everyone at NOFA is a friendly face.

Matthew: DO. EVERYTHING. You won’t get an opportunity like this ever again. Meet everyone you can and participate in every way possible. If there’s a chance for you to play a solo, take it! If someone offers you to play a note on their instrument, do it! If your pastoral group is playing games in the common room, don’t be afraid to join in! The people around you are just as eager to learn about you as you are to learn about them.

Dustin: Don't be afraid to be who you are. Everyone went through what you're going through and they ended up making a special place for NOFA in their hearts.

Lucy: Don't worry and enjoy yourself!

Beth: Don't be nervous, you'll meet new people and make friends quickly. Everyone's friendly and you'll love every minute of the NOFA experience!

In addition to the incredible music-making and performing opportunities to these inspiring young musicians NOFA has become almost like a family, as Beth says: "Thank you for every experience you've given me. I never thought I'd perform in half the places I have with NOFA and I've met friends from all around the country. It's something I'll never forget and I'm genuinely really sad that I'm now too old to take part. A few of us even formed a group chat we call #myNOFAmily, that's how much this orchestra means to us. I hope you keep me in mind for any future occasions you have and that the orchestra continues to grow and be successful. Because kids in the UK really need things like NOFA and it's really a shame that there aren't many other programmes like this one."

We couldn’t agree more.

If you know a young person with a passion for music who you think could benefit from participating in NOFA like Alannah, Matthew, Dustin, Lucy and Beth have, you can nominate them here - nominations open in January each year.