In your own time, maestro

21st September 2007 at 01:00
The National Youth Orchestra of Scotland has a new chief executive and artistic director who wants to develop it as a national resource

WHEN JULIAN Clayton worked with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland last summer, it was as conductor of Camerata, its most advanced ensemble for players on the verge of entering the music profession. A year on, as he watches the informal concert being given by the National Children's Orchestra of Scotland at the end of its summer course, his interest is no longer just that of a con- ductor who has worked with the orchestra in the past, but of the man taking over.

As of this week, Mr Clayton is the chief executive and artistic director of the entire NYOS organisation. He is responsible not only for the flagship National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, but also for the other ensembles and activities that come under the umbrella of the NYOS organisation.

These include the National Children's Orchestra of Scotland and Camerata, as well as a jazz orchestra and string ensemble. There are also training and repertoire courses for younger players who haven't reached the standard of the main ensembles. In addition, NYOS is involved in a number of education projects, including helping to fund a violin teacher in the Lochaber area.

A violinist by training who played with various orchestras, including Opera North, before turning to conducting, Mr Clayton has had a parallel career in music education and administration, first as head of strings and orchestral studies at Chetham's School of Music in Manchester and lat- terly as director of music at St Andrews University. Such experience makes him well placed to take over from Richard Chester, the previous chief executive.

That the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland is such a diverse organisation is one of the things that attracted Mr Clayton to the position in the first place. "It's about far more than putting on orchestral courses once a year," he says.

I look on it as a national resource and I think we should develop it as such."

The effects of having a new man in charge, with his own ideas and priorities, will probably not be felt immediately. "I'll certainly want to experience the whole NYOS year from the inside before I start thinking of any dramatic changes," he explains. "I'll be getting to know the organisation at first; there's a big difference between visiting for a week as a guest conductor and being responsible for drawing the whole thing together.

"Already, though, some of the staff are coming up to me with suggestions for small changes and different ways of looking at things, saying: 'Why don't we try this', or 'it might be better if we did this slightly differently'."

This is borne out when the conductor of the current NCOS course, Peter Stark, comes over and starts discussing the problems of losing the top group of players at the end of the summer, when the repertoire played by the orchestra is carried over to the Easter course.

"You see, there are lots of ideas there," Mr Clayton says. "Times are changing; you've got to look at things and see how they evolve."

Asked about the problems facing the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, he says they are the same as faced by any arts organisation: funding and the differences of provision in Scotland's regions.

"Different areas have different approaches to instrumental tuition," he says. "It's flourishing in some places and neglected in others. I think the patchy nature of music provision is one of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome; otherwise, it could very easily become the domain of certain private schools."

Does Mr Clayton have any particular ambitions for what he would like to see NYOS achieve? "At the moment it's difficult to say," he replies, after a pause. "I don't have a set aspiration. There are things that we should be doing; another Prom, a concert at the Edinburgh Festival, but other than that I really do want to wait and see.

"NYOS is a much bigger resource than just doing big concerts in big venues; they're just the top of the pyramid. It's important to maintain and nurture the pyramid or you won't get a constant flow of young musicians coming through at the very top levels."


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