Please click the tabs below to find the answers to our frequently asked questions.
Yes. This is to make it fair, so everybody has the same chance. Many people get nervous about auditions, but there’s no need to worry. All applicants are in the same boat and everyone is rooting for you. Also, as our auditions are by video, you can send us the very best version!
Make sure you prepare well, including speaking with your teacher who may be able to help you. The adjudicators know what you are going through as they are used to doing auditions themselves, so they will be understanding. Also, as all our auditions are by video this year, you can record your audition from somewhere you feel comfortable like home or school as many times as you like and send us a version you are happy with.
At the start of your video, please introduce yourself briefly (around 30 seconds) by telling us:
• Your name, age and the pieces you are going to play and;
• Tell us the answer to one of these two questions: What music makes you happy? or What are your top 3 tunes (classical or not!)?
You can then pause the recording before you then record both of your pieces in one take.
Don’t worry! Everyone's video will have a few small mistakes as no one is perfect! Just do the best you can.
You do not need to be accompanied for your prepared pieces. You may have an accompanist if you choose to but there is no disadvantage to playing unaccompanied, so please think about what will make you feel most comfortable. Recorded accompaniment is not permitted.
You do not need to have taken any grade exams, because offers of membership are based on your performance at audition, but we are looking for children who can play their instrument to a particular standard and so we offer the below age band and grade guidance for each programme area. If you are not sure of your approximate grade standard, your teacher may be able to help you.
It is free to audition, and all auditions are submitted via a pre-recorded video.
To take part in NCO there are Membership fees as outlined below. We are pleased to offer financial support to help ensure everyone who is offered a place has the opportunity to take part.
Membership fees for the 2024 NCO National programme are:
• Under 12 and Under 13 Orchestras £1,850
• Main Orchestra £2,050
Membership fees for the 2024 NCO Projects programme are: £350
The true cost to NCO of providing a place in an NCO orchestra is much higher than these fees but NCO subsidises activities to keep fees as low as possible and works hard each year to raise the funds which cover the balance.
You will find more information on membership fees for joining our NCO National and NCO Projects programmes on our Fess and Assistance page
There is also information on that page about NCO’s Financial Support Programme, which offers bursaries for young musicians and their guardians, who may have difficulty paying part or all of the membership fees and certain associated costs. Support ranges from partial to full bursaries and you will be provided with the information and forms to make a bursary application once your child has been offered a place in NCO.
No- unless you are a percussionist who needs to move venues to play on larger instruments for different pieces, please do not edit sections of your audition together. Your verbal introduction through to the end of your pieces should be one continuous recording. If you are preparing excerpts for the NCO National programme, they should be recorded and submitted as a separate video on the same form as your video audition.
Yes you can. Please complete a separate application form for each instrument, with entirely separate audition recordings. Please note that should your child be offered a place, that a membership offer will only be given for one instrument and one programme (National or Projects).
No. Please only send a video of you playing your audition pieces on your main audition instrument. There is space on the form to tell us about any doubling instruments you play and your experience on them.
We encourage applicants to submit their video auditions as early as possible. This helps us to administrate and adjudicate all of the auditions but of course won’t affect your result.
Videos must be submitted with the application form. Auditions will be open until 9am Monday 31st July 2023.
We do not allow applicants to submit pre-recorded performance videos for their audition. Often, performances are recorded from a distance which makes it harder for adjudicators to see or hear the audition and could count against you. We want all applicants to do well, so we would encourage you to record a video specifically for your NCO audition that is in one take where you can be seen and heard clearly. Remember to check the quality of your video and sound before you record the whole audition.
I'm applying for the NCO National programme on violin or cello and I'm finding the excerpts really difficult! Can you help?
It’s ok- they are meant to be hard and cover a range of abilities and qualities in you’re playing. If there is a particular excerpt you are finding difficult, don’t worry. Make sure you practise them as much as your pieces and take them to your teacher. Try playing them slower – the metronome marks are just a guide. We’d rather you play them accurately and slower than too fast and not so well.
You can also find top tips videos from our tutors and suggested recordings to listen to, to give you a feel for the music on each of the excerpts for your age band. If you have any further questions, you can email us at [email protected]
I'm eligible for both the NCO National and NCO Projects programmes. Which should I apply to? Can I do both?
The NCO National programme involves residential activities in the Spring and Summer holidays. Each residential lasts between 7 and 8 days depending on the orchestra you are in. The orchestra made up of our eldest members (those aged 13 on 31 August 2023) also meet up for a non-residential weekend in November, leading to a public performance in London.
The NCO Projects programme includes two weekends of non-residential, daytime performance-based activities bringing together musicians from across the country. There will be four days of rehearsals per orchestra.
Both NCO National and NCO Projects Members will also benefit from digital opportunities in advance, better preparing them musically and socially for their courses. Opportunities will include tutor welcome and preparation videos, a sectional, plus access to an ongoing online programme including creative and wellbeing resources and webinars.
Whether you join the NCO National programme or the NCO Projects programme, you will learn from exceptional NCO tutors, experience the joy and power of playing in live orchestras and will enjoy getting to know your fellow young musicians.
You can choose to apply for a single programme or apply to be considered for both. Once your audition has been adjudicated, you will only be offered a place on one programme:, NCO National or NCO Projects. This enables NCO to offer exceptional musical opportunities to as many promising young musicians as possible.
Your video will be adjudicated and then moderated by two NCO tutors and our Artistic and Educational Director, Catherine Arlidge MBE. Once decisions have been made, we will contact you by email. We aim to send out results for all auditions by email in the autumn term of 2023, from October onwards. Please note, we do not give out results over the phone and our decision is final.
Due to volume of applications that we receive, we are currently not offering feedback on individual auditions.