List of youth orchestras in the United States

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This is a list of youth orchestras in the United States.

Youth orchestras are performing groups for student musicians. The age range of participants varies; they may include musicians up to grade 12 or they may include older university and conservatory students.[1] In the United States, youth orchestras are operated primarily for music education. Some are associated with professional symphony orchestras.[2] Professional symphony orchestras have multiple motivations for sponsoring youth orchestras, including training of young musicians and building future audiences by engaging children with classical music.[1] A 2006-7 survey of youth orchestras by the League of American Orchestras found that 75% of the participating orchestral groups were independent, about 19% were affiliated with adult orchestras, and about 3% were associated with educational institutions.[3]

The first and oldest U.S. youth orchestra is the Portland Youth Philharmonic, founded in 1924 as the Portland Junior Symphony Association. Russian émigré Jacques Gershkovitch was the Portland group's first conductor.[4] It was followed in 1935 by the Young People’s Symphony Orchestra in Berkeley, California, which describes itself as the second oldest independent youth symphony in the country.[5] By 1963, Life magazine counted about 15,000 youth orchestras in the country and noted that they were producing music of a caliber that could appeal to adult audiences.[6]

Unlike many countries post-World War II, the United States does not have a national youth orchestra. A national youth orchestra existed, from 1940 to 1942, established and led by Leopold Stokowski and consisting of instrumental musicians between the ages of 18 and 25. Stokowski personally auditioned many of the 15,000 young musicians who applied to become members of the All-American Youth Orchestra. The orchestra he assembled consisted of about 100 musicians, one-fifth of whom were women. A small number of professional musicians from the Philadelphia Orchestra played with the younger musicians. The All-American Youth Orchestra made several recordings and toured in Latin America as well as the United States during its two years of existence before being disbanded due to the exigencies imposed by U.S. involvement in World War II.[7]

In 2012 the Weill Music Institute of Carnegie Hall launched the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (NYO-USA). By March 2013, the names of the 120 musicians chosen by were announced and the orchestra toured Washington, Moscow, St Petersburg and London in July 2013.[8]

Adult symphony orchestras in the United States are in a separate list of symphony orchestras in the United States.















New Jersey[edit]

New Mexico[edit]

New York[edit]

North Carolina[edit]

North Dakota[edit]









Washington, D.C.[edit]


  1. ^ a b Colin Lawson (2003). The Cambridge Companion to the Orchestra. Cambridge University Press. pp. 190–191. 
  2. ^ Paloma Capanna (May 9, 2012), "CLASSICAL PREVIEW: Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra", City Newspaper, Rochester, New York 
  3. ^ Youth Orchestra Profile Summary Data, League of American Orchestras, retrieved May 9, 2012 
  4. ^ "The History of America's First Established Youth Orchestra". Portland Youth Philharmonic Association. Retrieved May 9, 2012. 
  5. ^ Young People’s Symphony Orchestra (PDF) (brochure), Berkeley, California: Young People’s Symphony Orchestra, retrieved May 9, 2012 
  6. ^ a b "Life Guide: Young America's music; art shows; Chinatown parades", Life, p. 8, February 1, 1963 
  7. ^ Daniel J. Wakin (January 11, 2012), "Carnegie Hall to Establish National Youth Orchestra", New York Times 
  8. ^ Announcing the 2013 National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, March 4, 2013, retrieved 28 July 2013