President & Co-Founder

Joy Bryer, an American by birth, a European at heart.

In 1969 Joy Bryer and her husband Lionel founded the International Youth Foundation of Great Britain (IYF), with Sir Edward Heath KG, as its first President. The IYF is an educational charity devoted to promoting international cooperation and understanding amongst the world’s young, working particularly in the field of performing arts.

The first major project of the IYF was the “International Festival of Youth Orchestras and Performing Arts” held in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The founding idea was to bring together youth orchestras from across the world. Their musical diversity would act as a unifying bond to promote international understanding.

Joy and Lionel Bryer recruited youth orchestras from all over the globe.

The success of the 1969 festival in St. Moritz led the British Tourist Authority to enquire about bringing the Festival to the UK. In 1973, the Festival expanded to Aberdeen and to London. The local support and facilities in Aberdeen led the IYF to make Aberdeen the permanent base of the Festival at that time.

The festivals would conclude with the formation of a combined ‘Festival Youth Orchestra’. This newly amalgamated orchestra was led by leading international conductors, including: Claudio Abbado, Carlo Maria Giulini, Walter Susskind and Leopold Stokowski, as well as the then youthful James Judd and Simon Rattle. The ‘Festival Youth Orchestra’ appeared at the BBC Proms at the Royal Festival Hall, and at the opening concert of the Edinburgh International Festival.

Following the Festival, in 1974 shortly after Great Britain joined the European Community Joy and Lionel Bryer founded the European Community Youth Orchestra. The Orchestra accompanied the evolution of the EEC and was renamed the European Union Youth Orchestra in 1995.

Joy envisaged that the Orchestra would present a ‘united Europe’ – a group of one hundred and twenty musicians from across all Member States, cooperating to produce collective excellence – the European ideal. Joy understood the importance of fostering international dialogue and co-creation amongst Europe’s youth.

The European Union Youth Orchestra first toured in 1978. In 1986, the EUYO was awarded the ‘Olympia Prize’ by the Onassis Foundation. In 1990 the EUYO won the first ever ‘Prix d’Initiative Européenne’ and in 1991, the European Media Prize.

Joy’s work resulted in the founding of the first Italian, Greek and Asian youth orchestras. Her commitment to the education of Europe’s finest young musicians, to their scholarship, and to their continued professional development has set her apart from others. She is affectionately known as “Mrs B” by two generations of musicians, and over 3,000 alumni who now feature (for the most part) in the world’s most successful symphony orchestras.

Amongst many known classical music ensembles to have been born from the European Union Youth Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe is the most well-known. Acknowledged as “the finest chamber orchestra in the world” (BBC 2, 2011), the Chamber Orchestra of Europe was founded by former EUYO players in 1981. It is their wealth of cultural backgrounds and shared love of music-making nurtured in their EUYO days, which remains at the heart of their inspired performances.

Joy Bryer has been commended across Europe for her work in the fields of music and culture (in the main). Amongst her accolades, Joy has received the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (from the French Government) 1996, the Officer de l’Ordre Grand-Ducal de la Couronne de Chêne (from the Luxembourgish Government) 1997, a medal of honour from President Gil Robles (European Parliament) 1998 and the Comandante della Repubblica Italiana in 2004. Joy has been recognised all over Europe for her work, but as of yet, not in the UK. Her work, spanning 46 years, has impacted on the lives of hundreds of Europe’s musicians including: Francis Cummings (violinist), Colin Currie (percussionist), Gautier Capuçon (cellist), Paul Meyer (clarinettist), Anthony Marwood (violinist), Tanja Tetzlaff (cellist), Paul Watkins (cellist), Zsolt-Thamer Visontay (violinist), Leonidas Kavakos (violinist), Renaud Capuçon (violinist), Andrew Manze (violinist), Jacques Zoon (flautist), Sergio Azzolini (bassoonist) and Emily Beynon (flautist).

Since its conception, Joy Bryer has dedicated all of her energy to ensuring the Orchestra’s financial stability, and that its ethos remains steadfast. Almost certainly, no other orchestra in the world can claim to have had only one change in management since its foundation. Joy Bryer held the reins to the organisation until January 2013 when it underwent a restructuring and acquired its first CEO. At this point, Joy took on the newly created role of ‘President’. Wherever Joy goes she takes with her an impassioned rhetoric of a united Europe, investing in Europe’s youth. She believes and advocates for access to culture as a fundamental human right and pleas to governments and institutions to create the social and economic conditions for this right to be enjoyed by all.

In 2017 Mrs Joy Bryer was awarded an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s Birthday 2017 Honours List in recognition of over 50 years of services to arts, culture, youth, education and international relations.