If your child gains a place in one of our age-banded Orchestras, they will be invited to take part in our exciting residential courses that combine exceptional musical tuition with lots of fun social activities.

NCO courses are between 7 and 9 days in length and take place at boarding schools around the UK in the school holidays. We design the courses to enable our young musicians to explore the orchestral experience and develop their musicianship. Our tutors are drawn from major national orchestras and specialist music schools around the country, and are leaders in their field when it comes to training young talent. The courses consist of full orchestra rehearsals and sectional rehearsals with instrument tutors. For the youngest orchestra some of this time is also spent in choir rehearsals and ensemble playing. The welfare of our young members is of the highest priority and all staff are subject to full DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks.

I cannot praise the NCO highly enough! Our daughter was a little reluctant to apply and go on the course but loved it from the very first day, had the time of her life all week and wants to audition again. Most importantly, she now realises how much fun playing with others can be and she has 100 times more enthusiasm for her instrument than before.


Much more than just music practice, our courses also help to broaden the social development of our young musicians with time for sport, art and relaxing with friends. The children benefit from meeting and socialising with others who share their passion for music. The excellent pastoral care that we provide on our residential courses means you can rest assured that your child will be well looked after.

The three oldest orchestras have two courses per year during the Easter and summer holidays. The three youngest orchestras meet once in the summer. Approximately 600 children are in membership each year. At the end of each course a concert is held. The older orchestras perform in public at leading concert venues across the country - such as the Royal Festival Hall, and Leeds Town Hall - and the younger orchestras at the course venue. Main and Under 13s Orchestras also have a non-residential weekend course and public concert each December.

All children eligible to play in a National Orchestra are also offered membership of a Regional Orchestra. Here, all age groups combine to play together, providing a dynamic environment in which the older children develop their mentoring skills and the younger ones are inspired to progress. There are currently six regionals – two in London, and one each in the south west, south east, east and north of England. These vibrant orchestras form a separate activity stream, rehearsing monthly throughout the year (taking a break when the residential courses take place) with an end of season concert in November. NCO also offers Associate Membership of regional orchestras to children who play at the required standard at audition but for whom no place is available in the national orchestras. This allows NCO to support the musical development of typically an additional 90 to 140 children each year, a number of whom progress to audition successfully in the following year.