Tuesday 3rd March, 2020

The AYO occupies a special place in Australia’s musical life, where one generation of musicians inspires the next. Since AYO’s inception, our musicians have gone on to contribute to the Australian music scene in all kinds of ways; including as members of some of the finest professional orchestras and ensembles worldwide. If you have participated in any AYO program, you are a part of our extensive alumni family.

There has been an enormous number of diverse achievements from our alumni. Here are a selection.

Jonathon Ramsay, Principal Trombone of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, took first place at the 2019 Aeolus International Competition for Wind Instruments in Düsseldorf.

Tetsuya Lawson has been appointed Principal Trumpet of the Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet Orchestras.

Violist Katie Yap was selected to take part in the Helicona International School of Improvisation in Italy, where she studied the art of baroque improvisation before joining the Academy of Ancient Music in England, recording an album with them.

Bassoonist Alison Wormell and violinist Eliza Scott are studying at the Royal College of Music in London, England.

Violinists Mitzi Gardner and Eleanor Hill are studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, England.

Double bassist Jason Henery has been accepted into the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, United States.


Violist Sergio Insuasti was selected as the 2019 AWO Academy Player. He is currently studying at the Royal College of Music in London.

Trumpeter, Tim Francis has been selected as Associate Principal Trumpet of Orchestra Victoria after the past decade of studying and working in Europe.


Orchestral Management participant from National Music Camp, Jessica Hort has been appointed Assistant Orchestra Manager with Orchestra Victoria.

Violinist Johnny Van Gend has taken up a two-year residency at the Bavarian Opera Academy in Germany.

Som Howie won the position of Solo Clarinettist with full-time chamber ensemble, the Danish Chamber Players in Denmark. Som also tutored on the International Tour in 2019.

Bass Trombonist Kiran Samuel was accepted into the Aspen Music Festival and School in the United States.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Emerging Artists program accepted six AYO alumni for one-on-one mentorship and performance opportunities in 2019. It’s wonderful to see these musicians emerging into the professional world with ACO. Well done to violinists William Huxtable and Mana Ohashi, violists Molly Collier-O’Boyle and Mariette Reefman, cellist James Morley and double bassist Jaan Pallandi.

Nine AYO alumni were named as 2020 Sydney Symphony Orchestra Fellows! The musicians will spend a year immersed in the day-to-day life of a professional orchestra! Good luck to Callum Hogan, Emily Newham, Jordy Meulenbroeks, Dana Lee, Fletch Cox, Brian Hong, Tim Yu, Richard Shaw and Miles Mullin-Chivers!

Violinist Annabelle Traves is studying at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz (The University of Music and Dance) in Köln, Germany.

Violist Aiden Sullivan has accepted a Casual Viola position with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Looking back, Aiden has fond memories from the AYO programs he attended over the years.

  “Fifteen programs over the past seven years; my time is finally up! A heartfelt thank you to the Australian Youth Orchestra (management, tutors, fellow musicians and donors) over the years for so many great musical opportunities, experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.”



Syzygy Ensemble

Comprised of violinist Jenny Khafagi, cellist Campbell Banks, flautist Laila Engle, clarinettist Robin Henry and pianist Leigh Harrold, the Syzygy Ensemble gave their 10th anniversary concert, Turning Circles in 2019. In a review from Limelight Magazine they are described as “refreshing” and “exuberant” by Vincent Plush. “Clearly, the ensemble has a devoted and enthusiastic following for the Australian music they play (around 50 pieces over the past decade) and their international masterworks.”

Arcadia Winds

Since their early musical beginnings at AYO Chamber Players, this wind ensemble have brought their energy and joy of performance to festival stages in almost every state and territory in the country. With a desire to celebrate and promote Australian music, they have commissioned and performed works for a range of composers, inspiring a love of wind music. Arcadia Winds have been reaching wider audiences while performing in concerts at the Melbourne Recital Centre, the Four Winds Festival, UKARIA, and numerous school shows with Musica Viva In Schools program. The quintet is made up of flautist Kiran Phatak, oboist David Reichelt, clarinettist Lloyd Van’t Hoff, bassoonist Matthew Kneale and horn player Rachel Shaw.

The Australian String Quartet

With a passion for the colours of Australian string music, ASQ have taken to the stage, performing an array of festivals and concerts with celebrated guest artists for over thirty years. Violinists Dale Barltrop and Francesca Hiew, violist Stephen King and cellist Sharon Grigoryan have maintained close ties with AYO, returning to programs over the years as guest artists and tutors. Late last year, ASQ premiered the performance of AYO alumnus and composer Nigel Westlake’s newly commissioned quartet, Sacred Sky. The Australian Book Review calls it “A work of great beauty that combines calm reflection with something like playfulness.”

Partridge String Quartet

In the scope of emerging quartets, this fresh and versatile group have had a string of successful performances over the past three years, and have had exciting opportunities at both the Bendigo Chamber Music Festival and MPavillion this year. The quartet’s musicians are violinists William Huxtable and Mana Ohashi, violist Eunise Cheng and cellist Daniel Smith. Founded in 2017, the Partridge String Quartet strives to contribute to the Australian classical music scene with vibrancy and creativity.

Ensemble Françaix

Oboist Emmanuel Cassimatis, bassoonist Matthew Kneale and pianist Nicholas Young form this double-reeded piano trio, who take inspiration from 20th century neoclassical French composer Jean Françaix. Last year the Melbourne-based group won the Queensland International Chamber Music Competition, which preceded their successful string of concerts in Melbourne and their international debut at Osaka’s International Chamber Music Festa in Japan.

Many of AYO's alumni have pursued exciting careers in fields outside of music.


John How and Jenny How met at AYO’s National Music Camp in the 1970s, attending camp for over seven years playing trumpet and cello. Since then, the couple have been employed across Australia and internationally. John has spent over twenty years in ITER’s European Commission in France, researching international nuclear fusion and engineering where he now spends his retired days casually contracting with them. Jenny still plays the cello, performing at weddings and concerts with her string quartet. John and Jenny now live together in the south of France.

Mark Horrigan played cello with AYO in the 1970s before pursuing a career in medicine. Mark now works as a Cardiologist, and runs Pimpernel Vineyards winery in the Yarra Valley with his wife, Fiona.

Belinda Benn played double bass with AYO in the 1980s before moving towards her passion for health and fitness. Belinda currently runs her own “Aussie Transformation Coach” business, which helps women from around the world improve their hormonal health, fitness and confidence.

“Playing an instrument requires mind-muscle coordination, which in turn requires lots of concentration and discipline to achieve a high standard. I found the same when I started to exercise – I had to control my body in a precise, mindful way and be willing to incorporate feedback to improve.”



If you're an AYO alumni and would like to keep up to date with upcoming alumni events, update your details or share your news with us, we'd love to hear from you.

There are many ways to support the Australian Youth Orchestra, whether that's by donating, or contributing expertise.

Contact us by email at info@ayo.com.au or call 1300 668 500