Our Musical Leadership
Our musical leadership team works hard to develop the orchestra and produce fun and entertaining performances for our musicians and audiences. We wouldn’t be where we are today if not for their amazing talent and hard work.
Musical Director and Conductor
Sara Young began learning the violin at the age of 6, and was awarded a Junior Exhibition at the Royal College of Music before undertaking academic studies at Oxford University.
At Oxford, Sara played with many chamber groups and orchestras, and post-university, she played with the Saloman Orchestra. Sara led the Havering Concert Orchestra from 1982 to 1986 and was a founder member of the Essex Chamber Orchestra, serving as the Orchestra Leader between 1992-1993, with whom she celebrated 40 years of music making in April 2019.
Sara was invited to teach at Youth Music Centre Hampstead, Bexley Music School, and worked as a peripatetic violin teacher for Bexley local authority. Subsequently Sara enjoyed four years at Holy Trinity College, Bromley teaching violin, octet, and string orchestra. Following 18 years and several roles at Hazelwood School, where her string quartet took the Silver Medal at the Young Prague Music Festival 2015, Sara retired as Director of Music in 2018.
As a passionate advocate for community music, Sara believes that the educational and social benefits of making music with others cannot be underestimated. Consequently, Sara was delighted to be invited to begin working with NDCO for their summer concert in 2019. Sara, in addition to being our Musical Director and Conductor, also leads development for the strings and percussion sections.
Sara continues to perform with orchestras and bands, including the Essex Chamber Orchestra, Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Tonbridge Philharmonic, "Bagatelle", and, in a different genre, "The Victorious River Band" where she plays electric and acoustic violin.
Principal Guest Conductor
Richard Cross has worked with a broad array of musicians, including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Marin Alsop, Sir Antonio Pappano and Yehudi Menuhin, as an orchestral trombonist. Engagements include the BBC Proms, Naxos CD recordings, and broadcasts for BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM, alongside concerts, educational, community and outreach projects, with orchestras including Bournemouth Symphony, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, London Chamber Orchestra and Royal Northern Sinfonia. Smaller ensemble work includes performing for The Archbishop of Canterbury in key services, and on the lighter side, he has worked as a jazz and big band musician onboard the QE2 and has recorded for the pop industry at EMI Abbey Rd Studios. Corporate pop engagements include private functions for Volkswagen UK, Mercedes-Benz and Shell.
Richard has composed for theatre companies that tour the UK. His arrangements have been performed by musicians in Europe, Asia, the USA and Australasia and performances have been broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Commonwealth Radio. Arrangements have been played by music students from conservatoires and universities in the UK and USA including Guildhall, The Royal Academy of Music, The Royal College of Music, Trinity Laban, Cambridge University and Texas Tech; by military musicians serving in the British Army and Royal Marines; and by players working with the London Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, Bochum Symphony and New York Philharmonic.
Richard is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music.
Richard has served as the NDCO's Principal Guest Conductor since July 2016, and the orchestra's wind and brass coach since January 2017. In addition to being our Principal Guest Conductor, Richard also leads development for the wind and brass sections.
Internationally acclaimed conductor and comedian Rainer Hersch is Patron of the North Downs Community Orchestra.
A professional conductor, musician and comedian who has performed on every major comedy stage in Britain and abroad, Rainer has appeared many times at the Edinburgh Festival, had numerous comedy-concert series at the South Bank in London, and is featured in comedy clubs all across Europe and in TV shows around the world.
Rainer has conducted many professional orchestras globally. He is a professional pianist and an aspirational viola player. The North Downs Community Orchestra is honoured to have Rainer as our Patron; a commitment that inspires us to be the best and most fun we can be.