The initial steps towards realising the long-cherished dream of the late PETRONAS Chairman, Tun Azizan Zainul Abidin, to create a youth orchestra as a ‘stage for young talent’, alongside the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, were taken on 13 January 2006. Some 500 aspiring instrumentalists from across Malaysia auditioned and 110 – with an average age of 18 – were selected to form the new Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (MPYO).
After a period of intensive training under its Principal Conductor, Kevin Field, and mentors drawn from the ranks of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, the MPYO gave its first public concert in Dewan Filharmonik PETRONAS on 25 August 2007. It has since established a pattern of music camps held four times a year and culminating in performances in Kuala Lumpur and beyond. It has toured five cities in West Malaysia (2007), Sabah and Sarawak (2008), and Penang and Kuantan (2010), as well as giving sold-out concerts at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at the National University of Singapore in 2009. It has also performed in Brisbane, Australia in 2012 as part of an exchange programme with the Queensland Youth Orchestra.
In November 2008, a second nationwide round of auditions was held to ensure the MPYO continues to fulfil its aim of encouraging young musicians to appreciate orchestral music and to build a pool of well-trained Malaysian instrumentalists, community and professional performers, teachers and inspired amateurs.
The MPYO’s repertoire ranges from the core symphonic repertoire to specially commissioned works by Malaysian composers. In an innovative project, ‘Jazzaar’, during June 2010, members of the orchestra collaborated with six leading jazz musicians from the USA, led by Fritz Renold (who wrote his Suite Nusantara specially for the project) in order to enrich and widen their musical experience.
In November 2013, the orchestra performed in Kedah with renowned local singers Datin Paduka Julie Sudiro, Datuk Yusni Hamid and Jamilah Abu Bakar in a keroncong concert, further strengthening its versatility. In November 2014, the ensemble performed with Yayasan Warisan Johor and Orkestra Tradisional Malaysia in Johore Bahru.