National Orchestra for All

The National Orchestra for All is the only national non-auditioned orchestra I know of, anywhere in the world – we all have much to learn from this distinctive accomplishment.
— Eric Booth, author and Sistema Global Advisor

What is the National Orchestra for All?

NOFA is a unique, mixed ability orchestra made up of 100 musicians aged 11-18 from across all four countries of the UK. NOFA is the only non-auditioned national orchestra in the world. Young musicians are nominated by their music teachers for their dedication and commitment to music in the face of challenging circumstances. Regardless of their background, we set high artistic standards for the orchestra and programme a season of innovative and exciting repertoire in partnership with leading artistic organisations from a range of genres, including the BBC Philharmonic, Royal Academy of Music, National Youth Jazz Collective and One Dance UK.

What does membership involve? 

The NOFA season begins each July and lasts for nine months. The 2017-2018 season will see the young musicians explore the relationship between music and dance, with activities delivered in partnership with the UK’s national dance organisation, One Dance UK.

Across the 2017-2018 season, members must participate in three residential courses:

  • Summer Course 2017 – four-day residential course held at the University of Leeds from Saturday 29 July – Tuesday 1 August 2017, culminating in a spectacular concert to an audience of over 3000 at the First Direct Arena in Leeds on Tuesday 1 August 2017
  • Winter Sessions 2017 – three regional weekends held in Coventry (4-5 November), London (25-26 November) and Edinburgh (9-10 December)
  • Spring Course 2018 – two-day residential course held in Sheffield (4-5 April 2018) with a performance at the Octagon Centre on Thursday 5 April 2018 at 4pm

All travel, accommodation and subsistence is covered, and young people are supported at all events by our experienced team of professional musicians and pastoral staff. There will also be the opportunity to take part in other workshops, side-by-side events with professional orchestras and opportunities to attend concert performances throughout the year.

For those members in Year 11 and 12 we offer further opportunities through our Young Leaders Programme, which include the possibility of gaining an Arts Award qualification during the programme.

Who is eligible for membership?

NOFA is both an arts organisation and a social change organisation. Our aim is to support dedicated young musicians who face some kind of barrier to participating in music. Nominated students must fulfil Criteria 1 and Criteria 2 and at least one statement from Criteria 3 for NOFA membership as detailed below. It is very important to NOFA that we are able to reach pupils who will benefit most from the opportunities that membership in the orchestra offers. Please bear this in mind when nominating young musicians.

  • Criteria 1: Commitment to music and music-making in and/or out of school
  • Criteria 2: Sufficient emotional maturity to benefit from and contribute to a residential course, and will act as an ambassador for their school
  • Criteria 3 - nominees must fulfil at least one of the following statements:
    • Recipient of Free School Meals (FSM)
    • Emotional, Social or Behavioural Difficulty (ESBD)
    • Mild Learning Difficulty (MLD)
    • Physical Disability
    • Physical Health Condition
    • Mental Health Condition
    • Young Carer
    • In Care / Looked After
    • Refugee / Asylum Seeker
    • No Fixed Abode
    • English as an Additional Language (EAL)
    • Resident of Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) area
    • Resident of a Low Participation Neighbourhood
    • Student at Teach First Partner School
    • Late Start on an Instrument (post year 7)
    • Limited Accessible Local Music-Making

We accept nominations for players of any orchestral instrument (including saxophonists). All of our music is specially arranged for players from Grade 1 to 8 standard, and students do not need to be strong readers of music to join. In general we only take a maximum of five players from each school or organisation to ensure we have a broad intake from across the UK. If you have more than five players, contact us about how you might set up an accessible ensemble in your school or community through our Modulo Programme.

Returning members: We believe that we will have the greatest impact on a member’s life if we work with that member over a number of years. Any member that has been nominated for the orchestra once will only need to meet Criteria 1 and 2, along with a teacher’s statement explaining why that member should return as a member. Due to demand for places, renomination forms for returning members must be returned to NOFA by Friday 18 December 2016 in order to guarantee the place.

All the data we collect will be handled confidentially in accordance with our Data Protection Policy and will be used to make sure that NOFA is reaching the most suitable students, as well as ensuring future funding for the organisation.

How much does NOFA membership cost?

Membership in NOFA is free of charge for the young person. However, annual NOFA membership costs approximately £1500 per member, which is raised by our small staff team from a range of trusts, foundations, donors and fundraising events.

We ask each school to contribute just £250 per place, a sixth of the overall cost of membership. In previous years, schools have raised the money through raffles, coffee mornings and cake sales - and we're happy to help with creative suggestions to cover the cost. Membership will be invoiced in either May or September 2017.

However, we do not want money to act as a barrier for dedicated young musicians to join the orchestra, and appreciate that some school leaders may be unwilling to cover this cost. Please contact us to discuss in more detail if you have concerns about the financial contribution.

How do I nominate a young musician?

  1. Discuss the financial contribution with your headteacher or head of department. If your school is unable to make the £250 contribution, contact the NOFA team and we can discuss alternative arrangements.
  2. Meet with the nominee and explain what NOFA membership involves. It is important that the young person understands that nomination does not guarantee membership. All nominations will be considered together to ensure we are working with young people from across the UK who will benefit from the opportunity the most.
  3. Confirm with the nominee and the parents / carer the commitment required. NOFA members must attend all three events in the season.
  4. Complete the nomination / renomination form online within the deadline.

When does the nomination process take place?

If you would like to register interest in nominating a young musician for membership of the National Orchestra for All, please contact Sophie George, NOFA Programme Manager:

By email:

By phone: 0207 267 4141

Read moreNOFA Membership Guidance (2017-2018) (pdf)