Skip to content ↓

Introducing Foundation Symphony Orchestra

In the Warwick School Music Department we go to great lengths to ensure our provision is as inclusive as possible, that music is a part of every Warwick boy’s education, and that music making is weaved into the very fabric of our school community. Our unique instrumental schemes in Years 3 and 7 for example, are a testament to this ethos. If these initiatives, alongside our thriving ensemble and concert programmes which support them, form the base of our musical pyramid, then what I would like to draw your attention to today sits at the very top of that pyramid.

Our flagship ensemble, Foundation Symphony Orchestra (FSO) brings together over 80 of the best orchestral musicians from across the Foundation, to rehearse and perform the greatest orchestral music ever written, to a standard on par with any youth orchestra in the country. Not an easy task, so how is this achieved?

First and foremost, we have a highly dedicated and reliable membership. Entry to the orchestra is by invitation only, and a minimum of Grade 6 standard is required for most instruments (although, as is the trend with entry to national youth ensembles and conservatoires, the required standard is higher for some instruments - sorry flutes). Pupils are invited into the orchestra from Year 9 or above.

I really enjoy the variety of music FSO gives the opportunity to play, ranging from Bernstein's highly energetic 'Symphonic Dances' from 'West Side Story' to the imposing drama of Sibelius' 'Finlandia'. This diversity of repertoire is particularly exciting for the percussion section, enabling us to learn different techniques suitable for contrasting styles of music for symphony orchestra. - Charlotte, Percussion. Year 13

In addition to the excellent young musicians who make up the orchestra, we are fortunate to have a team of professional orchestral musicians from within our own Music staff, who tutor the individual sections of the orchestra on a weekly basis. The involvement of specialist tutors has had a hugely positive impact on the confidence and the cohesion of the orchestra since they came on board last year.

Foundation Symphony Orchestra is the biggest group I am in, and it sounds the best! - Alex, Viola. Year 10

Music selection also plays an important role in the success of any young orchestra. How to choose an hour-long programme from the last 500 years of classical music? The formula which seems to work for FSO is: keep everyone busy, make it challenging yet achievable, and make it engaging for players and audience alike. In addition to these criteria, something that separates FSO from the majority of school orchestras is that we only perform the original versions of pieces, that is to say that no ‘arrangements’ or simplified versions of pieces are performed. When you hear FSO perform the Main Title from Star Wars for instance, you can rest assured it is the original movie version. Here are some of the orchestral masterpieces FSO have taken on in the last year:

  • West Side Story Symphonic Dances - Bernstein
  • Symphony No.5 & No.7 - Beethoven
  • Finlandia - Sibelius
  • Nimrod - Elgar
  • New World Symphony - Dvorak
  • Sabre Dance - Khachaturian
  • Peer Gynt Suite - Grieg
  • Crown Imperial – Walton
  • Also Sprach Zarathustra – Strauss
  • Hungarian Dances – Brahms
  • Star Wars (Main Title) - Williams.

My favourite pieces I have played in FSO are Crown Imperial, because it is very high energy and powerful, and Allegretto from Beethoven Symphony No.7, because it is very atmospheric (and it has a great viola part!). I really enjoy being part of FSO, because I get to be with people who share similar interests and hobbies. It also helps me make more connections across the Foundation and build on current friendships. - Hannah, Viola. Year 10

Foundation Symphony Orchestra benefits enormously from its relationship with Orchestra of the Swan (OOTS), which is enjoying a successful residency at the Foundation. We have developed a mentor scheme with OOTS, through which our young musicians are able to have conversations with professional orchestral musicians (besides their fantastic instrumental teachers) and discuss music making beyond their school career, the orchestral profession, and the different routes that lead there. We have hosted a number of side-by-side events with Orchestra of the Swan, giving our aspiring orchestral players the chance to rehearse and perform with their professional counterparts.

I enjoy the social side, getting to meet lots of different people from different schools, instrument sections and year groups. - Killian, Clarinet. Year 13

So what next for Foundation Symphony Orchestra? Following their jubilant New Year’s Concert under the baton of Mr Derrick, the orchestra enjoyed a residential trip to Dunfield House on the Welsh border to kick-start rehearsals for their next performance, which will take place at the end of Lent term (Monday, 27 March at 7.00pm in Warwick Hall). This concert will feature a smorgasbord of orchestral treats from Mozart, Beethoven, Sibelius and others. Happily, the Dunfield House rehearsal residential will be an annual event for the orchestra from now on. There are also plans in the pipeline for a concert tour to New York next year. Exciting times ahead for all involved.

Foundation Symphony Orchestra doesn’t belong to one school more than any other. Instead, it exists as a shared platform, on which pupils come together in pursuit of something greater than the sum of its parts. What better analogy could there be for the Foundation as a whole.

Dan Robertson | Director of Music