Violinist Isabella spreads joy in National Youth Orchestra playalong

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National Youth Orchestra violinist Isabella Azima playedOde to Joy outside her home in Stratford last Friday. Photo: Mark Williamson

Last week young musicians threw open doors and windows up and down the country to join in on a synchronised rendition of Beethoven’s well-known Ode to Joy.

The event was organised by the National Youth Orchestra (NYO) for its 164 musicians to take part in after their proposed performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Southbank this month was cancelled.

Rosining up her bow at her Loxley Road, Stratford, home was King Edward VI School student Isabella Azima, 17. She has been a member of the prestigious NYO since October and also attends the Birmingham Junior Conservatoire, where she studies violin and piano in addition to A-level music, maths and Spanish at KES.

Isabella says: “The NYOde-to-joy-a-thon aimed to unite the country in music, to thank those who are working so tirelessly at the moment and to generally help to brighten people’s spirits during this lonely and anxious time.”

The event certainly succeeded in spreading joy and encouraging all musicians, no matter their ability, to join in. Thousands of people shared video of themselves playing, with entire streets erupting in music and a curious array of instruments being played too – including bagpipes in Scotland.

Speaking of how she became enthralled by the magic of music as a seven-year-old, Isabella says: “My mum had taken me to a Symphony Hall concert to listen to a double violin/piano concerto performed by the Bushakevitz siblings which had me in complete awe. The technicality and beauty of the violin resonated with me and the amount of expression and emotion that she conveyed whilst playing made me want to start.”

After winning a place with the NYO, what has she gained from the experience?

“It completely changed me as a musician for the better,” says Isabella. “Playing with such talented people, where the standard is just exceptional, is challenging in the best way. We are all like-minded and there to create amazing music for our audiences and for ourselves. The energy on stage when all 164 of us give it our all is electric and like nothing else I’ve ever felt.”

Has she got a favourite piece of music?

“I love all music which has a message to convey and a story to tell,” reckons Isabella. “Some of my favourites would have to be Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto and Shostakovich string quartets (number 2 and 8 in particular). However, I also love Gershwin piano concerto in F – it’s a brilliant piece!”

What about the best ever concert?

“Apart from our finale NYO concert at the BBC Proms last summer, which was the most incredible experience, I went to see Sheku Kanneh-Mason play Elgar’s cello concerto at the Proms, which was amazing,” says Isabella. “His commitment to the music and the emotion he puts into every performance is truly captivating and seeing someone a similar age to me being so successful inspires me to continue to work hard.”

Who would you most like to play with?

“I would absolutely love to play with Itzhak Perlman at Carnegie Hall.

“He’s been my violin idol since I was little and has always inspired me!”

Isabella says she plans to explore a career in music, so watch this space – we’re sure to be hearing more from the gifted player.