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 teachers, community music leaders, social workers and charity partners for showing 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.

Why does NOFA exist?

NOFA provides a platform to young people who would not normally get the opportunity to participate in music-making together and helps to ensure young people are better equipped with the skills they need to achieve their aspirations.

The importance of access to musical experiences and a high quality musical education is widely accepted. Research indicates the importance of music-making as it:

·       Transcends educational ability, socio-economic status and disability

·       Gives young people a unique way to express themselves

·       Can provide a safe space for young people to escape from challenging home or school lives

·       Brings multiple benefits: confidence and self-esteem, self-efficacy and cultural awareness

Playing in an ensemble provides additional proven benefits, including providing access to a broad and diverse social network and improving teamwork and communication skills.

Yet music education and high quality musical experiences are inconsistently resourced across the UK, and young musicians with complex lives are often the first to miss out. Opportunities for orchestral music-making too often go towards those who are already privileged in some way. A 2014 Youth Ensembles report conducted by the Association of British Orchestras highlighted that 92% of British Youth Orchestras set a minimum entry standard and 80% charge an annual membership fee.

This is deeply unfair. It means disadvantaged young people repeatedly miss out on the unique opportunity of ensemble music-making and cannot realise all the non-musical benefits that playing in an ensemble can develop.

NOFA has driven me in a direction I thought I’d never explore, inspiring me to pursue orchestral performance and a degree in music.

— Matthew, NOFA Ambassador

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 musicians 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 young people who will benefit most from the opportunities that membership in the orchestra offers. Please bear this in mind when nominating 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

  • Criteria 3 - nominees must fulfil at least one of the following statements:

    • Recipient of Free School Meals (FSM)

    • Emotional, Social or Behavioural Difficulty (ESBD)

    • Learning Difficulty

    • 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 / Attainment Challenge School

    • Late Start on an Instrument (began playing in year 7 or later)

    • Limited Accessible Local Music-Making

NB: This list of criteria is not exhaustive: should the young person you wish to nominate face another challenge that acts as a barrier to accessing music-making opportunities, contact us!

We accept nominations for players of any instrument (including non-traditional orchestral instruments such as guitars, pianos, recorders or saxophones). All of our music is specially arranged for players from pre-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 returning members will need to apply as normal but will usually be prioritised if they have proven their commitment over the previous season.

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.


What does membership involve? 

The NOFA season begins each summer and lasts for nine months. Across the season, members must participate in three residential courses.

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.

What is the season about?

The 2019-2020 season, My Roots, Our Routes, will explore the music that underpins human migrations and journeys, alongside the music that defines individual contexts, backgrounds and histories. We will introduce our young musicians to music that has emerged from some of the most well-known and significant migrations in history. As part of this, we are commissioning a new work that will engage the orchestra’s members in the creative process.

Provisional dates for 2019-2020 season (subject to change) are:

Summer Course 2019 - four-day residential course held at the University of Leeds from 4-7 August, culminating in a spectacular concert in Leeds on Wednesday 7 August 2019

Winter Sessions 2019 - 23-24 November 2019

Spring Course 2020 - two-day residential course 7-9 April, with a performance on Thursday 9 April

How much does NOFA membership cost?

Membership in NOFA is free of charge for the young person.

The 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 nominating organisation to make a donation for each NOFA member. Usually this is a contribution of just £250 per place, a sixth of the overall cost of membership, but it can be any affordable amount. In previous years, organisations 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 of the NOFA year.

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

NOFA is such FUN, so inclusive and genuinely shows what music making is about. I wish NOFA could be everywhere to show children how much fun music is.

— Parent of NOFA Member

How do I nominate a young musician?

  1. Discuss the financial contribution with the person who controls the budget for these activities within your organisation. If you are unable to donate please 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 form online within the deadline.

When does the nomination process take place?

Nominations for NOFA are currently closed, but we will be taking nominations in January 2020. Please keep an eye on our website and social media for notifications of this, or sign up to our mailing list to be kept up to date.

Any questions?

If you have any queries about the nomination process or the orchestra, please contact Steven Smith, NOFA Programme Manager:

By email:

By phone: 0207 267 4141

On Facebook:

On Twitter: @Orchestras4All #NOFA

On Instagram: @orchestrasforall