Our orchestras and ensembles, from the Academy Symphony Orchestra and Baroque Soloists to the Jazz Big Band and contemporary Manson Ensemble, cover a huge breadth of repertoire. And you’ll be working with the very best in the business – regular guest conductors include Semyon Bychkov, Sir Mark Elder, Edward Gardner, Trevor Pinnock and Christian Thielemann.

We invite members of the world’s top orchestras to lead sectional rehearsals, and students participate in side-by-side schemes with orchestras including the London Symphony and Philharmonia orchestras and London Sinfonietta.

We also have two significant partnerships with the Czech Philharmonic and the new Knussen Chamber Orchestra, both of which are in residence every year, giving classes and masterclasses, holding mock auditions and offering side-by-side performance opportunities.

The Academy’s orchestras and ensembles

We have groups for almost every kind of music, so we can cover a wide range of repertoire. These include:

  • Symphony Orchestra
  • Chamber Orchestra
  • Manson Ensemble (contemporary music)
  • String Orchestra (first-year ensemble)
  • Sainsbury Royal Academy Soloists
  • Symphonic Wind Ensemble
  • Symphonic Brass Ensemble
  • Brass Soloists
  • Baroque Soloists
  • Big Band
  • Musical Theatre Orchestra

The student experience

Undergraduate Jess finds playing in the Symphony Orchestra invaluable. ‘It’s been a real highlight of my studies,’ she says. ‘Having the opportunity to work with world-renowned conductors is a privilege. Long days of rehearsal are always worth it and it’s hard not to leave a session with Ed Gardner or Semyon Bychkov feeling inspired.’

Trumpeter Rebecca agrees: ‘Every performance at the Academy feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You walk out on stage, surrounded by musicians who are not only the best friends imaginable, but exceptionally skilled, too. The concerts are consistently sold out, the conductors are always exceptional, and the atmosphere is electric every time.

Every performance at the Academy feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Last term, we were lucky enough to perform an all-Berlioz programme under the baton of Sir Mark Elder. As a trumpeter, it was a fantastic opportunity to play some lesser-known works by the composer, as well as the classic, brassy March to the Scaffold. The difference in sound between the very beginning of the week and the performance at the end was astounding, and we all felt extremely proud to present our hard work to the audience.’

Double bassist Kai had a similar experience in the Academy Chamber Orchestra led by Lorenza Borrani: ‘I was incredibly excited to learn from Lorenza because she is an extraordinary musician,’ she says. ‘What I loved most about this project was the freedom to talk about any and every phrase. This was a week of playing without a conductor, and Lorenza took us out of our comfort zone by encouraging everyone to contribute musical ideas whenever we wanted. I felt very lucky to have this experience. I hope Lorenza visits the Academy often and helps broaden the horizons of many musicians!’

Visiting artists

We create one big community of world-class musicians, providing a network for life. Here is a list of artists who have worked with our students recently.

Conductors and instrumentalists: Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Marin Alsop, Lorenza Borrani, Bine Bryndorf, John Butt, Semyon Bychkov, Imogen Cooper, Laurence Cummings, Colin Currie, Pascal Devoyon, Eamonn Dougan, James Ehnes, Sir Mark Elder, Ning Feng, Edward Gardner, Jane Glover, Richard Goode, Daniel Hope, Stephen Hough, Steven Isserlis, Josephine Knight, Susanna Mälkki, Trevor Pinnock, Rachel Podger, Jac van Steen, Kathryn Stott, Masaaki Suzuki, Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, Christian Thielemann and Robin Ticciati.

Singers: Richard Berkeley-Steele, Florian Boesch, Susan Bullock, Allan Clayton, Lucy Crowe, Sophie Daneman, Iestyn Davies, Christian Gerhaher, Simon Keenlyside, Angelika Kirchschlager, Dame Felicity Lott, Ann Murray, Dennis O'Neill, Claire Rutter, Brindley Sherratt and Toby Spence.

Composers: Hans Abrahamsen, George Benjamin, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Tansy Davies, Helen Grime, Georg Friedrich Haas, Magnus Lindberg, James Newton Howard, Andrew Norman and Anna Thorvaldsdottir.

Jazz artists: Larry Goldings, Dave Holland, Ingrid Jensen, Anders Jormin, Soweto Kinch, Kneebody, Evan Parker, Chris Potter, Craig Taborn and Norma Winstone.