When Don Riddell set up a Saturday morning orchestra for young musicians in 1971, he was told kids would never want to play music at the weekend, when they could be at the beach.

Now in its 47th season of concerts, with several European tours and a number of awards under its belt, the Wessex Youth Orchestra is thriving under the directorship of Don's daughter Susanna.

Having gone through the ranks of the orchestra herself, along with her two siblings, and now working as a cellist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Susanna is well-versed in coaching the talented youngsters.

But, perhaps more importantly, she absolutely loves it.

"I do it because it's part of my family," smiles Susanna, who took over the running of the orchestra in 2007 after her father passed away.

"I take to them my insight into the orchestral profession. They learn a bit about the profession and they seem to really respond when I say 'this is how the “pros" have to do it'.

"The standard is very high and they are performing some of the same repertoire that the BSO would play. I think they're quite proud to be a part of it."

Don, who was director of Music and Arts at Bournemouth and Poole College, set up the Poole College Youth Orchestra. But when the establishment later became Bournemouth and Poole College, the name was deemed too long and changed to Wessex Youth Orchestra.

A couple of years later, he opened the Centre for Wessex Young Musicians with kindergarten classes, a junior string orchestra and wind band and the WYO. The centre is now home to some seven ensembles operating at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels as well as music theory classes.

The orchestra is a part-time course run at the college on Saturday mornings. Staff are employed by the college, but the running and other costs – including concert hall hire, sheet music and instrument transport – all need to be taken care of by the centre, which boasts CBeebies presenter Chris Jarvis as a patron.

“The WYO is one of the largest youth orchestras on the south coast," explains Susanna.

“It has been very successful nationally throughout the orchestra's lifetime. The WYO is a regular participant at the National Festival of Music for Youth, achieving repeated success, most recently being awarded the festival’s National Partnership Award (currently the highest accolade for youth orchestras in the UK), and returning to the Royal Albert Hall for a fifth appearance."

Youngsters, who have to audition for an orchestra seat, range from the age of ten, right through to those about to head off to university.

Alumni have gone on to become musicians, medics, lawyers, scientists, teachers and linguists but Susanna says being a member of the orchestra is about much more than education.

"We are not about training WYO members to become professional musicians, although there are former members of the orchestra in professional orchestras across the UK and all over the world. But as part of an orchestra, youngsters learn such invaluable life skills – working as a team, working to a timeline, delivering the goods under pressure, handling stage nerves. Musical study and performance experience really is the goose that lays the golden egg."

The orchestra has played at venues around the country, including Lighthouse, Poole, Bournemouth's Pavilion Theatre and the BIC, as well as Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, the Royal Albert and Royal Festival Halls and at theatres and concert halls around Europe as part of the orchestra's bi-annual touring programme, which has been running since 1976 and this year includes a trip to Amsterdam.

WYO's next concert takes place at Lighthouse, Poole on Saturday, July 6 and is one of its yearly highlights. Other, smaller ensemble concerts take place regularly to raise funds.

“The orchestra performs professional repertoire and, since it has a similar number of musicians on stage as a professional orchestra, it can only fit in a professional venue and as a result needs to secure not only box office success but also to continue to entice local corporate interest in and sponsorship support for the orchestra to make sure that the WYO can continue to fund its future work and performances," says Susanna, "But I think the key thing is that it's a social activity. They're learning all these life skills through fun and they seem to love it."

Tickets for the Wessex Youth Orchestra concert at Lighthouse, Poole on July 6 are available from lighthousepoole.co.uk cwym-music.com