Sarah Alexander, who celebrates her 10th season in charge of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in 2018, has been appointed OBE in the New Year’s Honours list. Under her remarkable leadership, NYO has evolved from an institution which benefitted 164 young people in 2008 people to an organization which will this year reach 10,000 teenagers. At a time when the future of music education looks bleak, and opportunities for talented secondary school students are dwindling and inconsistent across the country, her ‘totally teenage’ mission has seen an ambitious expansion of NYO as a social action organization, while maintaining the very highest standards of musicianship.
Continuing a tradition of strong female leadership which began with founder Dame Ruth Railton in 1948, Sarah Alexander’s vision cascades down through the organisation, inspiring teenage girls to excel in leadership and peer-to-peer roles in NYO, which now retains a gender balance of 50/50. Thanks to the momentum generated by the NYO Inspire programme – a game-changing, free inclusion and access programme – NYO sustains numbers of non-white musicians at 27%, putting it significantly ahead of the 14.6% in the general teenage population. This drive forward to harness the richness and brilliance of teenagers from across the country from all backgrounds, and to make NYO open with no barriers, has attracted ongoing support from philanthropists, vital for an organization which relies on the support and commitment of its donors for over 70% of its funding.