NYOJ breaks down barriers by bringing together 23 schools ‘united in harmony’ through the power of music
Joy, excitement and pride were just a few of the emotions bursting from the 125 National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica (NYOJ) students performing for a generous crowd at Hope Gardens in St Andrew on Sunday. Students from 23 different schools 'United in Harmony' for the NYOJ's free end-of-term community concert.
The audience enjoyed all levels of performance, from the nine- and 10-year-olds climbing on to the stage for the first time, to the senior brass quintet and string quartet made up of NYOJ's most talented students playing well-known crowd-pleasers.
From Beethoven to Vivaldi and from Bellamy to Bellwood, the concert showcased a range of classical, cultural and international repertoire, with many Jamaican composers and arrangers featured. Each piece was introduced by a student from a different school and many audience members expressed their admiration for the programme bringing together so many different schools and being such a positive outlet for Jamaican youth.
In a message included in the programme, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites said: "I must commend the NYOJ for its programme of empowering Jamaica's youths through classical music training and development of youth orchestras. When young people make music together, they work toward a common goal that has the potential to change lives profoundly and for the better."
While the concert was happening, the students were asked to fill out surveys to measure what they had learned during the year through their involvement in the programme. Many expressed their social and emotional growth and development. For example, one student wrote: "Since joining the NYOJ, I have learned that, no matter what social class you are from, you can do and accomplish anything."
The evening was hosted by NYOJ artistic director Ann McNamee, who expressed gratitude to the audience for their support and encouraged continued involvement, as the programme is truly changing lives.
By the end of the show, the crowd was shouting for an encore, as more than 140 students and instructors involved in the programme made their way on to the stage amid delighted conversations and endless laughs. They came together for a picture that expressed the evening perfectly: 'United in Harmony' they truly were.
NYOJ is a social intervention programme that targets at-risk students with the aim to change students by using music as an instrument.