Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras

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The Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (BYSO) is a youth orchestra based in Boston, Massachusetts under the artistic leadership of Music Director, Federico Cortese. Since 1958, BYSO has served thousands of young musicians from throughout New England with three full symphonic orchestras, two young string training orchestras, six chamber orchestras, a preparatory wind ensemble, a chamber music program and a nationally recognized string training program for underrepresented youth from inner-city communities called the Intensive Community Program (ICP).[1]

BYSO’s mission is to "encourage artistic excellence in a nurturing environment by providing the highest quality orchestral training and performance opportunities to qualified musicians, grades K-12, and making its programs accessible to underrepresented youth through financial aid and outreach."[1]

Each year, BYSO auditions about 900 elementary and secondary students, accepting around half of them.[1] BYSO creates a community for young musicians, their families and the people that support their passion for music.

BYSO offers over 20 performances in some of Boston's finest venues including Boston Symphony Hall, Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory, Sanders Theatre at Harvard University and the Tsai Performance Center at Boston University. The orchestras and chamber ensembles rehearse every Sunday from September through June at Boston University College of Fine Arts, where BYSO has been in residence since it was established in 1958. The College of Fine Arts is a major sponsor of BYSO.

BYSO receives funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the premier federal arts funding agency in the United States, as well as numerous private and public funding sources. In 2007, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the state’s agency for arts, humanities and sciences, announced continued support for the BYSO; it ranked the BYSO first among all orchestras in the state for its quality, outreach programs, and fiscal and administrative management.

BYSO has the largest operating budget (in 2010, $2,372,974 [2]) of any youth orchestra in the United States, nearly double that of most youth orchestras.[3]

Joe Grimaldi is the current President of BYSO Board of Directors.


Boston Youth Symphony (BYS)[edit]

The Boston Youth Symphony, BYSO’s premier ensemble, is composed of 115 advanced players. The group performs a wide range of demanding orchestral repertoire and is led by Music Director, Federico Cortese, and Associate Conductor, Adrian Slywotzky.

During the season, all members of BYS also participate in one of two chamber orchestras, BYS Sinfonietta or BYS Camerata, in which they explore music of the Classical period, including works by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. BYS also annually performs full, semi-staged operas. By studying this repertoire in a chamber orchestra setting, BYS members develop specific techniques of ensemble playing and musical phrasing to a degree they may not otherwise experience within the larger orchestra. The BYS also holds an annual concerto competition open to all of its members.

BYS performs at world class venues including Boston Symphony Hall, Sanders Theatre at Harvard University, and Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory. BYSO has built an international presence with tours and performances in world-renowned venues in Israel, Columbia, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Finland, Sweden, Italy, France, Estonia, Latvia, Russia, Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, Great Britain, Ireland, Austria and Hungary.

Repertory Orchestra (REP)[edit]

Under the direction of conductor Mark Miller, the Repertory Orchestra is an advanced, full symphonic orchestra composed of 107 players of excellent technical and musical ability. Repertory Orchestra has performed in some of Boston's most prestigious venues including Boston Symphony Hall, Sanders Theatre at Harvard University, Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory and the Tsai Performance Center at Boston University.

During the season, all members participate in one of two chamber orchestras, Repertory Sinfonietta and Repertory Camerata, in which they explore music of the classical period, including great works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. By studying such repertoire as part of these chamber orchestras, Repertory Orchestra members develop specific techniques of ensemble playing and musical phrasing to a degree they may not otherwise experience within the larger orchestra. Mark Miller conducts Repertory Sinfonietta and John Holland conducts Repertory Camerata.

Junior Repertory Orchestra (JRO)[edit]

The Junior Repertory Orchestra, conducted by John Holland, has grown steadily from a small string orchestra to a full symphonic ensemble made up of more than 108 members. Members receive group and individual coaching, which enables them to build solid, fundamental technical and musical skills. John Holland began his first season as the JRO conductor in 2012-2013. Under his leadership, JRO performs four times during the year at several venues throughout the Boston area, including Boston Symphony Hall, Boston University's Tsai Performance Center and Sanders Theatre at Harvard University.

During the year, all JRO members receive sight-singing and ear-training instruction as part of their experience at BYSO. These classes are taught by BYSO staff.

Young People’s String Orchestra (YPSO)[edit]

The Young People’s String Orchestra is conducted by Marta Zurad. This young orchestra performs major repertoire from the standard string orchestra literature while learning the skills needed for excellent orchestral playing. It is an energetic and collaborative ensemble that emphasizes teamwork and leadership development. These young musicians challenge each other at every rehearsal as they learn the joys of hard work and dedication to excellence. YPSO has performed at such venues as Symphony Hall, Boston University’s Tsai Performance Center, Kresge Auditorium at MIT, and has been featured as part of WCRB's Cartoon Festival.

Preparatory Winds (PW)[edit]

The Preparatory Winds, directed by Janet Underhill, is the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras' newest ensemble, beginning its first season in 2006-2007. PW is an ensemble of winds, brass, and percussion where students work on orchestral style music in preparation for BYSO’s full symphony orchestras. PW focuses on blend and articulation while introducing students to standard orchestral doublings and skill sets needed as a successful musician. Students in PW are exposed to standard transpositions and clef usage typical to their instrument in orchestral literature As members of the PW, students will develop basic techniques of ensemble participation, which will help prepare them for future orchestra membership.

Intensive Community Program (ICP)[edit]

BYSO believes that every child benefits from engagement in the pursuit of artistic excellence provided in a nurturing environment. In 1998, BYSO recognized a need to reach out to students in under served communities in the Boston area to extend this valuable opportunity. The Intensive Community Program (ICP), a nationally recognized string instrument training program, serves underrepresented students in classical music with the goal of preparing them for successful auditions leading to membership in BYSO’s orchestras. ICP accepts young students (ages 5–8) who show exceptional interest in studying stringed instruments and provides them with scholarship assistance for weekly music lessons, ensemble classes and instrument rental. Once admitted into a BYSO orchestra, ICP students receive support in the form of need-based tuition scholarship, weekly lessons and use of an instrument until they graduate from high school. The program’s success is based on the community spirit that has been built which encourages students to achieve accelerated musical growth. ICP, currently in its 18th season, serves 72 students, 52 of whom have been accepted by audition into BYSO orchestras. For the last eleven years, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has supported ICP. NEA panelists have praised the high artistic quality and teaching methods of ICP, calling it a model music training program for under served youth.

BYSO Camp[edit]

Every August, members in JRO, REP, and BYS start the season at the BYSO Camp, which takes place at New England Music Camp (NEMC) in Sydney, Maine. JRO and BYS members arrive there on the same day, however JRO members stay for five days while members of BYS stay for eleven. On the day JRO leaves, REP orchestra arrive and stay for six days. During these days, the orchestras make use of NEMC's facilities practice and rehearse throughout each day. During breaks, members of BYSO cool down in the canteen, relax in dorms or cabins, play sports, swim in the lake, or practice.


  1. ^ a b c "Our Programs". Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras. [permanent dead link]
  2. ^ BYSO 2010 Annual Report"[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ BYSO Today, BYSO website

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