About Us


Empowering Lives through Music


A vibrant and inclusive youth Orchestra that inspires excellence through music


To inspire and empower youth to harness and develop musical excellence through a sustainable youth orchestra programme in Antigua and Barbuda

Message from our Patrons

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Message from the Patrons of the Antigua and Barbuda Youth Symphony Orchestra, Their Excellencies, Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda Sir Rodney Williams and Lady Williams.

When Her Excellency Karen Mae Hill, Antigua and Barbuda’s High Commissioner to the UK, shared with us her desire to energise the Antigua and Barbuda Youth Symphony Orchestra, Lady Williams and I readily agreed to serve as its Patrons. High Commissioner Hill and her team exceeded our expectations and within a short order brought to life to an otherwise struggling organisation. This motivated us to go the extra mile in assisting with the procurement of funding and instruments in support of our youth orchestra.

The work and performance schedule of the ABYSO to date has been nothing short of impressive. Recruitment, procurement of instruments and equipment, training with some of the best in the industry and performances which have been packed houses have all created a buzz and transformation in the lives of many youths in Antigua and Barbuda. The sound of classical music is alive and being well received across the generational divide. We commend the Board of Directors for their commitment to transforming the lives of our youths through the magic of music. We also express our sincere gratitude to past and present donors and friends of this worthwhile venture. Our youths continue to grow in confidence in their musical skills and personal lives.

We join in extending a warm welcome to visitors in this virtual space to not only discover the value of ABYSO but to pledge your support for the important work the group of committed volunteers and music facilitators are providing for our youths in Antigua and Barbuda

We encourage you to give generously to this worthwhile cause since the continued investment in our youths will invariably real benefits.

Best wishes for continued growth and success for the ABYSO.

His excellency Sir Rodney Williams GCMG, KGN, KSt.J, MBBS, PhD(h.c) Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda.


In 2017 the Antigua & Barbuda High Commission (London) spearheaded a series of school concerts in Antigua and Barbuda called Playing to Inspire. The concerts showcased the talented Kanneh-Mason children, including cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the first musician of colour to win the prestigious BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 2016. The Kanneh-Masons are proud members of the Antigua and Barbuda diaspora in the United Kingdom and it was inspirational to see how young people across Antigua and Barbuda responded to their presence on the Island and to their music.

The 2017 Kanneh-Mason experience gave birth to the idea that a fitting legacy of the inaugural Playing to Inspire must be the creation of an orchestra which allows young people unfettered access to quality music education and performance. Resa Nelson, a student who attended the 2017 concert expressed this ambition as follows: “I now would like as a dream to see an orchestra formed as a result of this experience”.

And so in 2018, at the Playing to Inspire 2 concert finale, and with the support of the Kanneh-Masons, the ABYSO was relaunched under the distinguished patronage of H.E. Sir Rodney Williams and H.E. Lady Sandra Williams. It is administered by a Board of Directors and an Advisory Committee all of whom serve voluntarily and are drawn mainly from the business, arts and philanthropic community. 

Today, the ABYSO has its first cohort of musicians. It has also developed a junior programme to identify new and existing musical talent and to train trainers. Youth, regardless of their socio-economic background, who demonstrate a strong commitment to music are given the opportunity to do so under the ABYSO brand.

Board of Directors

Andrew Hedley

Annette Aflak

Bernadette Sherman

Christiane Hansen

Claudine Benjamin

Dr Jillia Bird

Eurileen Thibou

Gaye Hechme

Josieann Hampson

Karen-Mae Hill

Ladesa James-Williams

Vernon Jeffers

Joining the ABYSO

Membership of the ABYSO is by audition only held annually in August. The ABYSO is open to all young players of orchestral instruments living in Antigua and Barbuda who are firmly committed to music. Musicians up to age 29 years are welcomed and encouraged to audition for membership.

As a minimum requirement for auditions, musicians must:

  • have attained grade 5 or its equivalent in their instrument
  • be enrolled in a progressive school music programme and/or be taking private lessons in their instrument
  • be strongly committed to investing the time needed to develop as a musician.

The ABYSO Junior Programme provides a structured programme of weekly, intensive training for aspiring musicians who are not yet at the level required for membership of the ABYSO but who show significant talent and commitment to developing as musicians. It is expected that members of the Junior Programme will attain the standard required for entry into the ABYSO.

Where We Are From


Located in the heart of the Caribbean

Antigua and Barbuda, situated to the north of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, are two small islands about twenty-seven miles apart. The State however is made up of three islands – the third being Redonda, 40km south-west of Antigua. Antigua is the largest of the three islands, encompassing 280 sq. km with 86,295 inhabitants (2011 consensus). Barbuda is 161 sq. km with 1,638 inhabitants and Redonda is 1.6 sq. km and uninhabited. Redonda is home to numerous species of plants and animals scientists say can be found nowhere else in the world. A programme was successfully implemented to remove invasive black rats and non-native goats from the Island to help the Island’s flora and fauna flourish.

Natural Environment

Crab say “Even when pot a bwoil look foo me” (local proverb)

Even when it seems all is lost there is hope

Antigua and Barbuda’s environmental identity expands far beyond the sun, sea and sand. Barbuda, for example, boasts the largest Frigate bird breeding and nesting colony in the Western Hemisphere, whilst the Antigua Black Pineapple, due to unique soil type and specifics in amount of rainfall, bears a distinctive sugar-sweet taste, second to none. The waters around Antigua and Barbuda abound with marine life, most notably with hawksbill turtles, humpback whales, stingrays, and a wide variety of reef fish.  Over 140 species of bird have been observed and recorded in Antigua and Barbuda including the yellow-breasted Bananaquit, Lesser Antillean Bullfinch, Antillean Crested Hummingbird, Brown Pelican and Laughing Gull.


Good me do, tankey me get (local proverb)

You do not appreciate the pains I went through to help you

The first recorded inhabitants of Antigua and Barbuda are said to have been the Kalinga (Caribs) and Taino (Arawaks) peoples; Amerindians believed to have originated from the Orinoco River region, South America.  Antigua was called Wadadli and Barbuda, Wa’omoni by the early Amerindians. Amerindian Petroglyphs have been found in Indian Cave, located in Barbuda. Columbus sailed past Wadadli in 1493 and renamed the island after a famous miracle working virgin in Seville Cathedral, Santa Maria de la Antigua. It was not until 1632 that Antigua was colonised by the English under Edward Warner, the island’s first governor. Tobacco, ginger, cotton and the dye plant indigo, were grown by these early Europeans. Africans were imported to work Antigua’s sugar industry from the 1640’s and the cruel institution of slavery began in Antigua. On 1st November 1981 Antigua and Barbuda gained Independence and Vere Cornwall Bird became the nation’s first prime minister.


Crapo na jump and e pickney walk (local proverb)

Children follow the footsteps of their parents

Today, the blend of Amerindian, European and African heritage has created a unique modern-day Antiguan and Barbudan identity – reflected in the arts, culinary recipes, dialect and day-to-day way of life. Warri for example, is a commonly played bead game which is believed to originate from the Ashanti Region, modern day Ghana. Christianity arrived with the Europeans and is practiced by 74 percent of the total population. The annual Carnival is more than a street revelry, as it commemorates the date of Emancipation from slavery. The traditional music of Antigua and Barbuda is called benna.  Cricket is an important part of everyday life in Antigua and Barbuda. The Island has 4 Cricketing Knights,  Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Richie Richardson, Sir Andy Roberts and Sir Curtly Ambrose. Sir Vivian Richards is also a national hero.


Ole fire tick, easy foo catch (local proverb)

      It is easy for people who were once lovers to rekindle their romance

The system of government in Antigua and Barbuda is modelled after the British Parliamentary system and the administration of the State is conducted by a Cabinet of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. The Honourable Gaston Browne is the 4th and current Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, in office since 2014 becoming the country’s youngest Prime Minister. He is also the countries Minister of Finance and Corporate Governance.  Prime Minister Browne is a banker by profession. Sir Rodney Williams is the fourth and current Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda. He is a medical doctor by profession. He entered politics in 1984 as the Member of Parliament for St Paul constituency and has served in the cabinet as a minister. Harold Lovell, an attorney-at-law, is currently Leader of the Opposition.


One-one mango full up basket (local proverb)

Perseverance is the key to success

Antigua and Barbuda’s economy is service-based, with a GDP in 2012 of US$1.2 billion, 2.8% above the level of 2011 and a GDP per capita of US$13,500. Growth continued in 2013, estimated at 2.3%, reflecting new investment in tourism, construction, and transportation. Services now account for 64% of the economy with industry 33% and agriculture 3% (World Bank).  Tourism dominates the national economy and is the most important source of foreign exchange and foreign direct investment in Antigua & Barbuda. It underpins the country’s economic growth accounting for two thirds of GDP, 40 percent of investments and more than half of the Island’s employment opportunities. Antigua’s airport, the V.C. Bird International Airport is the largest in the Eastern Caribbean. Its primary energy source is derived from solar energy.

Interesting Facts About Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua has 365 beaches, one for every day of the year, whilst Barbuda is home to a fourteen-mile long beach with unique pink sand.

Barbuda was first settled by Europeans in 1666. Between 1666 and 1927 over 120 vessels were shipwrecked on its low-coral reefs.

In May 2007, BBC Radio 4 produced a documentary entitled “Redonda: The Island with Too Many Kings” which explores its history and the curious legacy left by Matthew Dowdy Shiell, an Irish sea-trader from Montserrat, who in 1865 celebrated the birth of a long-awaited son by leading an expedition of friends to Redonda and claiming it his Kingdom.

On 1st July 2016, Antigua and Barbuda introduced a ban on single use plastic grocery bags.

The Antiguan racersnake is a harmless rear-fanged grey-brown snake that was until recently found only on Great Bird Island off the coast of Antigua, in the Eastern Caribbean. It is among the rarest snakes in the world.

The oldest building still in use in St. John’s is the Old Court House. It was built in 1747 and today houses the Museum.

Nelsons Dockyard, constructed for the British navy at the end of the 18th century to protect the interest of sugarcane planters, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016.

The first steelpan that was commercially recorded, Brute Force, was from Antigua and Barbuda.

The Antiguan Creole today has several words and phrases which are of West African origin, based on the tribes who came to the island.  Here are some of them: nyam (eat), crywater (tears), wa gwarn? (what’s up?), kyakle (cow).

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