Association of British Orchestras

Sophie Lewis Confirmed as New ABO Chair

Following an inclusive and wide-ranging recruitment process, Sophie Lewis, CEO of the National Children's Orchestras, has been appointed Chair of the Association of British Orchestras (ABO), a key position in UK performing arts. The appointment takes immediate effect, as ABO Interim Chair Jenny Jamison resumes her role of Vice-Chair.

Sophie brings wide experience of orchestral management. She returns to the ABO Board having been involved with the ABO extensively over the years.

Sophie joined National Children's Orchestras in 2018 as Chief Executive to oversee a period of substantial organisational change and development.  A new NPO, NCO brings 650 remarkable 8-14 year old children together each year, to experience the joy of orchestral music and performance.  Sophie is responsible for the strategic development and overall management of the charity.

Before this, Sophie spent ten years as Chief Executive of Sinfonia Cymru in Wales, a chamber orchestra dedicated to supporting young professional musicians. Her successful leadership was acknowledged in 2012 when she won the inaugural ABO Classical Music Orchestra Manager of the Year Award.  Sophie has held previous roles at Welsh National Opera, Arts Council England and English National Opera.

Non-executive roles include as a Director of the ABO (2013 to 2018) and current membership of Advisory Committees at Music Mark and Bristol Beacon. Sophie represented the UK as an international jury member for Classical Next in 2019 and participated in the ABO/British Council Orchestral Leadership Transform Programme. 

A regular panellist at industry events, Sophie has presented at conferences and events run by the ABO, Arts Marketing Association, Clore Leadership and Musicians’ Union.

Sophie Lewis said: I'm passionate about the brilliance and diversity of our orchestras and the difference they make to our lives every day and look forward to playing my part as the ABO Chair in supporting the future of British orchestras and classical music more widely through a period of positive change. The ABO has played a huge part in my professional development for over 20 years and I am profoundly motivated to bring my energy and expertise to support its future alongside Judith Webster and the team, the ABO Board and its remarkable membership in my new role.”

Commenting on the appointment, Jenny Jamison, Interim Chair of the ABO, said: “I am delighted to welcome Sophie as the new Chair of the ABO and have the greatest respect for her deep understanding of orchestras, her collaborative approach and her sheer enthusiasm for the role. She brings a wealth of experience with a range of orchestras and ensembles across the UK, including young musicians and the workforce of the future. Sophie's appointment reinforces the ABO's focus on sector development and change, as we respond to current challenges and a changing world. I look forward to working with Sophie as I resume my role as Vice-Chair.”

The ABO’s sincere thanks go to Jenny Jamison for acting as Interim Chair for the last nine months.

The ABO Board will also now recruit to three vacancies for Nominee Directors (ABO Full Members), with elections taking place at the AGM on 21 November.

With over 200 members, the ABO is the national body representing the collective interests of professional orchestras, youth ensembles and the wider classical music industry throughout the UK – part of a £4 billion UK music sector. In collaboration with others working to celebrate and strengthen this sector, our mission is to enable and support an innovative, collaborative and sustainable orchestral sector by providing advice, support, intelligence and information to the people who make British orchestras a global success.

This is a period of positive change and renewed energy at the ABO. Brexit, Covid-19, the climate emergency, the cost-of-living and mental health crises, and significant threats to music education are affecting every area of our members’ business models. British classical music performing groups are a fundamental source of positive societal good. This is a pivotal moment to showcase the diversity, impact and joy at the heart of all our members’ creative work.

Annual Conference

The next ABO conference will take place in Gateshead,
hosted by The Glasshouse ICM, from 5-7 February 2025.