Highland Young Musicians set to have their first full orchestra since pre-Covid led by new local Conductor
1st November 2023
Formal invitations for all Highland Young Musician groups have reached nearly 250 young People ahead of the annual rehearsal calendar starting from Saturday 4th November.
It is expected that the total membership numbers will be over 200 this year, populating the six music groups: Highland Youth Big Band, Highland Regional Youth Orchestra, Highland Youth Wind Band, Highland Youth Choir, Highland Youth String Orchestra, and ‘Snas (Ceilidh band).
Highland Young Musicians activities exist to provide opportunities for progression from the many school, area, and independent groups which exist throughout Highland.
Norman Bolton, High Life Highland's Head of Music Development, said: "I am delighted to announce that 2024 will be the first year since pre-pandemic times that the Highland Young Musicians will have a full orchestra.
“This will be led by the Highland Regional Youth Orchestra’s new Conductor, Tomas Leakey, originally from Inverness and who happens also to be a former music pupil of mine!"
Over the last ten years as Music Director of the Mahler Players, a chamber orchestra he founded in the Highlands of Scotland 2013, Tomas has conducted most of Mahler’s works, as well as music by composers ranging in period from Mozart to Boulez.
He currently has a focus on Wagner, which has led to him being awarded the Bayreuth Stipendium by the Wagner Society Scotland in 2022.
To help inspire the next generation of musicians, Tomas has also led educational projects in which works such as Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, Walton’s Façade and the BBC Ten Pieces were performed in schools across the north of Scotland to hundreds of Young People.
Norman continued: “It is such an honour to have Tomas joining the Highland Regional Youth Orchestra as Conductor. As a local musician with a rich and relatable music journey, he will no doubt inspire the Highland Young Musicians membership for years to come.
“Other major events coming up include the ‘Highland Young Musician of the Year’ competition, which allows some of our most talented young musicians to compete in a supportive environment as they develop this aspect of their musical education - the winner of this competition also gets to represent Highland at the Scottish Young Musician event.
“We also have an annual ‘Beating Retreat’ ceremony at which pipers and drummers from across Highland come together and present a public performance, which will be supported in 2024 by a joint Wind Band, dancers, and our regional ceilidh band ‘Snas.
“Many of our piping and drumming pupils play in local pipe bands and compete in the likes of the Royal National Mòd, but the format of this event is new to many of them and a great addition to other local experiences.”
Provision of instrumental tuition in Scottish schools is a non-statutory obligation, delivered and managed across Highland by High Life Highland.
Highland Young Musicians groups have a policy of ensuring that financial or geographical barriers do not exclude young people from all over Highland gaining access to the groups and the advanced musical skills they promote.
Norman concluded: “Being part of a group music activity can allow a child to enhance their music skills and will additionally lead to better social understanding and confidence.
“Ensuring that Highland Young Musicians groups are excellent ambassadors for the area involves a great deal of investment in the work of the groups from all involved.
“High Life Highland aims to take pressure off music budgets by achieving financial independence for the groups by charging membership fees and seeking additional funding support where possible.
“High Life Highland would be delighted to discuss funding support options from any external organisation or business wishing to support music opportunities for local Young People.”