Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards recognises ground-breaking orchestra for its contribution to empowering young musicians and inspiring wider participation in music creation.

South-West Open Youth Orchestra (SWOYO) was last night awarded the Learning & Participation award at the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards, the highest recognition for live classical music-making in the United Kingdom. The orchestra was recognised for its contribution to wider participation in music creation, empowering young disabled musicians, and high quality musical experience and understanding.

SWOYO is the UK’s first disabled-led regional youth orchestra, featuring disabled and non-disabled young musicians playing conventional and electronic instruments — including the ‘Clarion’, an award-winning, accessible musical instrument that can be played with any part of the body, including the eyes. Developed by OpenUp Music, with the support of Nominet Trust funding, the Clarion is making music creation accessible, challenging expectations, and opening-up opportunities for musicians to develop their abilities — all through the creation of great music. Two SWOYO musicians play the Clarion; Bradley Warwick with his eyes and George Roberts with small, precise movements of his head.

The Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards are the highest recognition for live classical music-making in the United Kingdom were set up in 1989 to celebrate the outstanding musical achievements of both young and established, British and International, musicians. The Learning & Participation award is awarded to a project, initiative or organisation which has inspired wider participation in music-making and has created high quality musical experience and understanding.

The work of the SWOYO is also laying the foundations for the National Open Youth Orchestra, the world’s first disabled-led national youth orchestra, due to launch in September 2018. The National Open Youth Orchestra is calling for more young musicians to join their pioneering group. They are looking for those who have a passion for music, are between the ages of 11-25, and have the drive to play any instrument with energy and perseverance. For more information, go to www.thenoyo.org