Emerging Professional Artist programmes

The National Youth Choir exists to provide exciting and inclusive creative opportunities for all young people. 

As part of this remit, our Emerging Professional Artists programme, supports young singers, composers and conductors as they emerge into the professional world. It aims to address inequalities in the music industry by creating professional development pathways for those who are under-represented in choral music. Participants in our Emerging Professional Artists programmes work closely with the National Youth Choir (18-25 years) and our other choirs.

Photography: Rich Hardcastle 

Wednesday 28th September, 2022


Read our latest blog by NYCGB Fellow Jason Ching, who takes us on a whistle-stop tour from April to September as a Fellow. Jason provides a marvellous insight into behind the scenes of BBC Proms, learning new techniques at Discovery Weekend and recording sessions for #YC4 (releasing January 2023).

Taking advantage of having Monday off from my job as a secondary school music teacher (due to the May Day Bank Holiday), I departed from Kings Cross and arrived in Sunderland on a Friday night, to be part of an NYCGB ‘Young Singers Intensive Weekend’. Organised by Katie Lodge (Learning and Engagement Manager) as part of NYCGB’s Learning and Engagement programme, this was an opportunity for young singers from around the North East to experience what being a member of an NYCGB choir would be like in the space of two days.

Expertly lead by the fantastic duo - Luke Mathers and Sarah Lucy Penny (SLP) – both former Fellows, I was part of an experienced music team that included another Fellow, Flossie Price, as well as some members of the National Youth Choir. The Saturday consisted of ice-breaker games, fun warm-ups, sectional rehearsals, and full rehearsals in the impressive new building of Sunderland City Hall. The participants showed unrelenting enthusiasm to be involved and a keen sense of excitement all through the day. On Sunday, there was a buzz in the air, and the afternoon presented an incredibly moving performance to the young singers’ family and friends. No doubt a number of them will go on to audition and become members of the Girls’ and Boys’ choirs in the near future.

Entering mid-July, things were starting to get very busy. It started with the National Youth Choir (NYC) summer course in York, where all the Fellows joined in for only a few days with the choir to record a hugely complex 40-part piece by Erollyn Wallen. As well as this, we were given podium time to conduct rehearsals of two beautiful early part-songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams under the guidance of Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Ben Parry – a richly rewarding experience.

Not long after, the NYC and Fellows reconvened, this time at the BBC Maida Vale studios in London. Lead by the National Youth Girls’ Choir Principal Conductor, Joanna Tomlinson, we had a full day of intense rehearsing. The music: Brahms’ Requiem. The occasion: the BBC Proms with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (BBCSO), conducted by Ilan Volkov. As with most professional engagements, there’s usually a very tight schedule and minimal rehearsal time. Unfortunately, the day the BBCSO were coming down to London coincided with a day of National Rail train strikes. They inevitably arrived much later than planned in the evening, having been on a coach from Glasgow they boarded at 7am! However, the professionalism of both the conductor and orchestra meant that a shortened rehearsal that evening and a rehearsal on the day of the performance were sufficient to create a truly memorable evening at the Royal Albert Hall.

Then began the summer holidays, which meant a series of summer courses for the Training Choir, Boys’ Choir, and Girls’ Choir at various locations across the country. I was placed on the second Training Choir course of the summer, located in Bristol. The first day was dedicated to setting up the rehearsal spaces, getting to know each member of staff, and for the music team to look through all the repertoire for that week, led by the vastly experienced Principal Conductor, Greg Beardsell and Assistant Conductor, Tori Longdon. Throughout the week, I had the opportunity to work with both the music team section leaders and the pastoral team. It was clear to me that both teams were equally vital to the smooth running of a choir of hundred-or-so young singers. The week was intense but rewarding, culminating in video and audio recordings of some of the pieces, and an emotional concert on the final day in the Victoria Rooms of Bristol University.

September began, and it was time for new members to join the National Youth Choir, many of whom had been on the Training Choir course only a week prior to their first NYC engagement: the Discovery Weekend. Held at the Royal Academy of Music under Ben Parry’s direction, the choir were to record the four new pieces by the current four Young Composers: Ben Nobuto, Thomas Metcalf, Sun Keting, and Claire Roberts. It was clear that the Young Composers were keen to take advantage of the ability and adaptability of the choir, exploring a whole range of different sounds the voice is capable of, and challenging standard forms of notation with liberating graphic scores. The weekend was rounded off with a workshop led by the multi-talented Ken Burton, who coached the choir to sing in a gospel style and taught many songs by ear, including a beautiful arrangement of Can’t Give Up Now by Mary Mary, where Ken stole the show with his powerful solo verses in between the choruses, sung by the choir. There was much joy inside Duke’s Hall and spirits were high; a sure sign that another great year is to come for NYCGB.