Biography

The European Union Youth Orchestra is one of the world’s pre-eminent symphony orchestras. Described by the UK Guardian as having “gripping, exhilaratingly good orchestral playing, surging with energy, laser-sharp focus and collective daring... [with] a technical prowess that is downright terrifying”, and by former EU commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as “the best possible ambassador for the European Union” it has provided an exceptional bridge between music colleges and the professional music world for generations of Europe’s finest musicians since its foundation in 1976.

The Orchestra has worked with many of the world’s greatest musicians including Daniel Barenboim, Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan, Mstislav Rostropovich and particularly its three Music Directors and current Chief Conductor: Founding Music Director Claudio Abbado, former Music Director Vladimir Ashkenazy, former Music Director and current Conductor Laureate Bernard Haitink, and Chief Conductor Vasily Petrenko.

The EUYO’s 3,000 alumni have all come through the Orchestra’s rigorous, annual audition process conducted in all 27 EU Member States, and many are now notable conductors, soloists, teachers and instrumentalists working with the major orchestras of Europe and throughout the world. A truly global brand, the EUYO has performed in most of the world’s major concert halls and festivals, including the BBC Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall, New York’s Carnegie Hall and Vienna’s Musikverein. From Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi, Moscow to Mumbai, Seoul to São Paulo, the Orchestra has appeared in many hundreds of venues across five continents.

Recent awards include the European Orchestra Award in Dresden from the European Culture Awards TAURUS, and a Cultural Diplomat of the Year Award at the Abu Dhabi Culture Summit. The EUYO began 2020 by performing at the Opening Ceremony of the 50th World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as part of  Marin Alsop’s Global Ode to Joy project, and had plans to perform in Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Ferrara, Grafenegg, Sintra, Stresa, Vienna, Moscow, Myanmar and Shanghai throughout 2020, including activity as part of the Orchestra in Città! community programme in the Orchestra’s home in Ferrara, performing a world premiere as part of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven with a special Beethoven’s Mirror project, and celebrating the German EU Presidency, the 70th anniversary of the European Broadcast Union and the 75th anniversary of Jeunesses Musicales.

  All of these plans changed radically as a result of the Coronavirus epidemic. The EUYO launched a new EUYO Digital platform to enable it to continue working with the EU’s young musicians, and created a 23-day Spring 2020 Online Residency for the Orchestra at one week’s notice. On Europe Day 2020 the EUYO broadcast concerts on six TV channels in four countries across two continents, and recorded a special online concert Hope through Music commissioned by the Delegation of the European Union to Turkey and in association with Europa Nostra. A digital summer residency in partnership with Grafenegg Festival and a Europe-wide socially distanced chamber music festival are currently in planning. In these ways, the EUYO has reacted to Coronavirus by broadening its work with young EU musicians and ensuring that its management team is able to work safely and remotely.

The Orchestra’s home in Italy is thanks to support from the Italian Ministry of Culture, the Municipality of Ferrara, and the Italian national broadcast organisation RAI. Additionally the EUYO is resident orchestra at its summer home and principal venue partner Grafenegg in Lower Austria, and partner of Campus Grafenegg. The EUYO is supported by the Creative Europe programme of the European Commission, and by the Member States of the European Union.

Founded by Joy and Lionel Bryer in 1976, the EUYO has been a Cultural Ambassador for the European Union for more than forty years. The EUYO’s Honorary President is David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, and its Honorary Patrons include Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EU Commission and Charles Michel, President of the European Council, as well as the Heads of State and Government, the ministers of foreign affairs and culture of the EU member states. In recent years, the EUYO has added to its enviable tradition a series of innovative learning and performance programmes pioneered in its Creative Europe Towards 2020 project, helping to train its members with the skills necessary to meet the challenges of 21st century society and audiences.

 

 

VIEWS ABOUT THE EUYO

 

“For forty years the European Union Youth Orchestra has united the young generations of our continent through music. This is Europe at its best. In hard times like the ones we are living, the EUYO sends a powerful message to all the young people of our continent: your time is now”.
Federica Mogherini, Former High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Honorary Patron of the EUYO

 

“The EUYO perfectly exemplifies the power of being united in diversity - .. the EU motto.”
Themis Christophidou, Director-General, the European Commission for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture   

 

“The [EU] youth orchestra has been a symbol of cultural diversity in Europe for 40 years. If this European Union Youth Orchestra did not already exist, you’d have to start one now”.
Monika Grütters, German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media

 

“The European Union Youth Orchestra is Europe at its best. The young musicians of the EUYO symbolize the values and ideals that lie at the heart of Europe – solidarity, culture diversity, cross-border mobility, intercultural dialogue and collaboration”.
Androulla Vassiliou, Former EU Commissioner for Education,Culture, Multilingualism and Youth

 

“Building bridges not just between musicians, but also between cultures and peoples”
Martin Schulz, Former President of the European Parliament

 

“Pre-eminent cultural ambassadors for the EU”
Herman van Rompuy, Former President of the European Council

 

“This is Europe at its best: openness and readiness to listen and embrace others’ ideas to better chart the future.” “…undoubtedly one of the most successful and loved European co-operation projects”.
José Manuel Durão Barroso, Former President of the European Commission

 

“As the EU prepares for its historic enlargement eastwards, the Youth Orchestra can proudly say it has blazed the way”.
Hans-Gert Pöttering, Former President of the European Parliament

 

“…the remarkable European Union Youth Orchestra enlisting musicians from 15 European nations.By their art these orchestras greatly contribute to strengthening mutual understanding among peoples and to the construction of the common European home”. 
Boris Yeltsin, Former first President of the Russian Federation

 

“I am delighted to learn that the ECYO is touring Europe and India as part of the birth centenary celebrations of Jawaharlal Nehru. This is a befitting tribute to one who had tremendous faith in the capabilities of youth. I extend a warm welcome to the ECYO on its tour of India”.
Rajiv Gandhi, Former Prime Minister of India

 

“For over a decade, you have remained committed to enhancing the considerable talents of young musicians, while serving as an important symbol of European unity and cooperation. I commend you as ambassadors of goodwill who bring delight to audiences the world over. Through your inspiring performances, you enhance our love and appreciation of music”.
Ronald Reagan, Former President of the United States of America

 

“[The ECYO] proves that our cultural differences – far from presenting an obstacle –brings common riches, creativity and success”.
Jacques Delors, Former President of the European Commission

 

“The Youth Orchestra perfectly fulfills its task. It carries with it, from one frontier to another, the hope of unity and a promise of friendship”.
Jacques Chirac, Former President of France, former Prime Minister of France

 

“The ECYO sets an example to us all by demonstrating what harmony amongst nations can achieve”.
Margaret Thatcher, Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom