The EUYO's History

Promoting the EU's ideals for over 40 years

The European Community Youth Orchestra (later to become the European Union Youth Orchestra) was founded in 1976 by Lionel Bryer and Joy Bryer, respectively the Chairman and Secretary General of the International Youth Foundation of Great Britain, together with founding Music Director Claudio Abbado and the UK politician Sir Edward Heath, with a view to creating an Orchestra which would represent the European ideal of a community working together to achieve peace and social understanding. At the same time it was also designed to provide an invaluable professional development experience for young orchestral musicians.

Since its inception it has received the support of the European Parliament and the European Commission with major financial support and political backing. The EUYO's Honorary President is the President of the European Parliament and its Honorary Patrons are the Heads of State and Prime Ministers of each of the EU member states, headed by the President of the European Commission. The EUYO is unique for a number of reasons, not least because it is the only orchestra in the world to have been formed through a vote in Parliament and represent every single one of the 27 EU Member States.


Here we list a few landmark moments in the History of the EU and the EUYO

  • 1957 The six EU founding countries sign the Treaty of Rome creating the European Economic Community (EEC).
  • 1974 The proposal for the creation of the Orchestra is put forward by Baroness Elles MEP to the Committee on Cultural Affairs and Youth of the European Parliament.
  • 1976 The Orchestra is founded on 8 March by Joy and Lionel Bryer, following a resolution adopted by the European Parliament. On 22 April the European Commission confirms the official Patronage of the Orchestra.
  • 1978 Inaugural tour conducted by Founding Music Director Claudio Abbado, to Amsterdam, Bonn, Paris, Luxembourg, Brussels, Milan and Rome.
  • 1980 Herbert von Karajan conducts the Orchestra in Salzburg with soloist Anne-Sophie Mütter.
  • 1981 EUYO performs under the baton of Daniel Barenboim.
  • 1982 Tour to Mexico.
  • 1984 Tour to China and Hong Kong.
  • 1985 Tour to Japan with conductor Leonard Bernstein and soprano Barbara Hendricks.
  • 1986 The Single European Act passed.
  • 1988 Tour to USA performing in New York, Washington D.C. and Boston.
  • 1989 Tour to India with Zubin Mehta.
  • 1991 - Tour to Russia.
  • 1992 “Maastricht” Treaty established the title “EU” on 7 February.
  • 1994 - Bernard Haitink appointed as the ECYO’s Music Director succeeding Claudio Abbado, and the following year, mirroring the changes in the EU, the ECYO becomes the EUYO
  • 1996 - South American tour to celebrate the Mercosur Treaty with conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy.
  • 1998 - EUYO performs at the World Economic Forum with Iván Fischer.
  • 2000 - Vladimir Ashkenazy succeeds Bernard Haitink as the EUYO’s Music Director.
  • 2004 - The Orchestra returns to Brazil to celebrate the city of São Paulo’s 450th anniversary.
  • 2008 - Tour to Japan, China and Korea.
  • 2010 - EUYO performs at Shanghai Expo.
  • 2012 - Second tour to USA including performances at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.
  • 2013 - EUYO goes to Malta, the last EU country in which EUYO had not yet been performing. Co-Founder Joy Bryer appointed as the Orchestra’s President. Launch of the “Great Europeans” Award, with Polish composer Witold Lutosławski as the first recipient.
  • 2014 - Tour to Abu Dhabi, launch of the European Music Campus in partnership with Grafenegg.
  • 2014 - The EUYO, with its 8 international Partners and 30 Associates, awarded co-funding by the European Union’s ‘Creative Europe’ cultural funding programme for the first phase of its project: ‘Towards 2020: Skilling Musicians & Engaging Audiences in Europe’s Orchestral Sector’ (T2020).
  • 2015 - Vasily Petrenko appointed as Chief Conductor of the EUYO. Bernard Haitink CH, KBE, becomes Conductor Laureate of the EUYO. Continuation of Global Exchange Programme for the EUYO players. EUYO debut for the Orchestra's first woman conductor, Xian Zhang.                                                                            
  • 2016 - 40th anniversary tour 'Capital Sounds' in celebration of the Orchestra's founding. Vasily Petrenko gives his first concerts as the EUYO’s new Chief Conductor and Bernard Haitink conducts the Orchestra as recently appointed Conductor Laureate.           
  • 2017 - Vasily Petrenko returns as Chief Conductor for 2017 Summer Tour Spirit of the North, leading six major concerts in performances which focus on and celebrate music from the Baltic and Nordic countries of Europe. 2017 also sees the start of the 3 year China EU Experience Europe campaign with a group of EUYO players rehearsing and performing alongside Shanghai Orchestra Academy.
  • 2018 - EUYO establishes a new legal seat in Rome and a new headquarters in Ferrara in partnership with the Italian Ministry of Culture, the Municipality of Ferrara, and RAI, and is appointed resident orchestra at Grafenegg. The Orchestra receives 2 awards: the European Orchestra Award in Dresden from the European Culture Awards TAURUS 2018, and a Cultural Diplomat of the Year Award at the Abu Dhabi Culture Summit. In celebration of the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage, 2018 includes performances in fourteen countries throughout Europe, South America, the Middle East and Asia, with residencies in Bolzano, Ferrara, Grafenegg, Dubai and Shanghai.
  • 2019 - The Orchestra performs Beethoven's Symphony no. 9 at Konzerthaus Berlin, with thousands of people joining in for a singalong of Ode to Joy.
  • 2020 - The EUYO is awarded the 'European Cultural Brand of the Year 2020' for its cultural efforts during the pandemic, having performed 24 concerts throughout 19 European countries, including 14 European capitals and major cities and regional venues, involving 282 EUYO members, alumni & guests from all 27 EU Member States & the UK, and involved 177 young musicians from the EU27 and the UK with 284 hours of online events, with content ranging from online rehearsals, chamber music, music labs, workshops and performances, to well-being sessions and social hangout spaces. 
  • 2021 - The EUYO returned to live touring in summer 2021, and performed a special Venice version of Autumn from The [Uncertain] Four Seasons, a global project recomposing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons through an algorithm developed by composers, musicians, climate and computer scientists using geospatial climate predictions for 2050.
  • 2022 - The Orchestra launched a Peace in Europe project with a series of concerts throughout 2022 in countries across Europe, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, from the border with Ukraine to the North Sea, dedicated to the cause of peace in Europe and highlighting the plight of victims of violence.


For more recent events and concerts, have a look at our news page here, or our archive of past projects here