The Free State Youth Orchestra (FSYO) is a key component of the FSSO Company. It acts as feeder orchestra for the FSSO and is an essential element of the music-educational pipeline. Its membership comprises senior learners as well as university students. Normally it rehearses every week and presents about two concerts per year. The FSYO also has other activities such as weekend ‘camps’ and tours.
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The original FSSO was established in 1974 through a collaborative initiative between the University of the Free State (UFS), the Department of Education of the Free State Provincial Government and Pacofs. Together these parties instituted a high-quality, three-tiered music-training structure for young musicians.
In addition to playing in junior and senior youth orchestras of the then Provincial Department of Education’s Musicon and in UFS student ensembles, the most gifted high-school learners and university students played in the Free State symphony orchestra (then managed by Pacofs), alongside their teachers, professors and other highly-qualified professional musicians/mentors. Many of these young musicians went on to become professional musicians and teachers in South Africa and internationally.
In 2003 the FSSO was publicly re-launched, mainly with the support of the University of the Free State. It is a registered public benefit organisation (BPO) with Section 18A status, sustaining a symphony orchestra and a music-educational pipeline which provides orchestral development opportunities for young musicians and students from all communities.
The principal objective of the FSSO Company is to address the orchestral music-education provision, support, learning, teaching and training needs of young musicians within the context of (a) regular professional symphony orchestra concert cycles as well as (b) youth orchestra concerts. To this end the FSSO Company runs has established two high-quality orchestras:
This FSSO Company is also in partnership with the UFS’s Odeion School of Music regarding its Youth Wind Ensemble (FSYWE).
The professional core of the symphony orchestra comprises music professors and lecturers employed by UFS as well as music teachers from the community. The remainder of the symphony orchestra consists of the best young instrumentalists, both learners and students.
This means that the FSSO annually provides numerous learning and training opportunities for young musicians in the symphony orchestra and the youth orchestra. They obtain skills are essential for them to audition for appointments in professional orchestras or for entrance into music studies at universities in South Africa and overseas (see list of ‘graduates’ below’).
This network of partnerships effectively creates a music-educational ‘pipeline’ which enables talented young musicians from all backgrounds to progress from junior youth orchestras to senior youth orchestras to the ‘adult’ symphony orchestra.