NYOS LAB Unlocks Creativity for Young Musicians


Over three days of experimenting, improvisation, and playful music-making, the first NYOS LAB course successfully brought together 18 young musicians from across Scotland to develop skills and knowledge whilst creating brand-new music.

NYOS LAB is a new course from the National Youth Orchestras of Scotland that explores a variety of approaches to improvisation and aims to unlock creativity, helping young people develop their skills and musicianship. The course is driven by a team of world-class artists while providing an open environment to learn, grow and create as a collective.

The project, led by double-bassist and composer Emma Smith, explores improvised and co-created approaches to ensemble music-making. Combining sound palettes and techniques that draw on classical, jazz, folk tradition and music from around the globe, NYOS LAB provides space for young musicians aged 14-18 to explore their musical abilities and creative voice. The course also allows for a diverse group to come together, with some from orchestral backgrounds, and some learning their skill at home, or through school bands. 

Over a jam-packed weekend, the LAB participants created four unique pieces taking the inspiration from the world around them, using knowledge and skills developed in artist led sessions that asked them to think about a variety of elements and approaches to improvisation.

The first day saw the young musicians creating by initiating sound, imitating others or observing the group both with and without instruments.

Within just a few hours two very different improvised pieces were born Low and Unfolding – with the next two days building on this idea.

During the second day of activity, the group explored modes, melodies and using different scales and chord progressions to improvise on a simple fragment.

Supported by the combined expertise of the artists within the tutor team, Annabel Kershaw, Helena Kay, Phil Hague and Seonaid Aitken – the participants were able to work in sectionals – ending with a collective sharing session.

The final day of NYOS LAB saw the participants taken on a journey through the history of music, and investigating the different ways they can draw out emotion and allowing them the chance to try new techniques, combining their musical styles to create something they may not have experienced previously.

After three full-on days of music-making, NYOS LAB was rounded off with a fantastic sharing session for family and friends which celebrated their collective creativity and showcased the four pieces of new music.

Following the success of the first NYOS LAB, it is hoped that the project will return for further sessions, where young musicians will continue to benefit from this unique approach to learning new skills and exploring their experimental music-making as a group.   

Emma Smith, NYOS LAB Lead Artist, said: “When we spoke to young people about developing this course, we wanted to know what gap there was in their musical learning experience that a creative opportunity like LAB could slot in to and give them something really valuable.” 

“This new project is about producing quality and pushing ourselves, without the fear. This is a project that can help augment what the young people are learning in orchestral settings or at school by helping them to collaborate and learn from each other in a creative space.” 

To hear what the young people had to say about their experience at NYOS LAB, watch the short video below. To see more from our other programmes, make sure you are following NYOS on social media, @nyoscotland. We look forward to sharing information about all the incredible ways to connect with NYOS.

> Discover the NYOS 2024 concert programmes
> Find out more about our orchestras and projects
> Sign up for newsletters