New York Youth Symphony

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New York Youth Symphony
OriginNew York, New York, United States
GenresClassical, popular music, soundtrack, new-age, musical theatre, film score
OccupationsSymphony orchestra
Years active1963 – present
MembersExecutive Director
Shauna Quill
Music Director
Michael Repper
Assistant Conductor
Alan Buxbaum

Myra Cui

Director of the Chamber Music Program
Lisa Tipton
Director of Jazz Band Classic
Andy Clausen
Director of Making Score
Kyle Blaha
Director of Artistic Operations
Isabel Kim
Notable Alumni: Marin Alsop, Gerard Schwarz, Cho-Liang Lin

The New York Youth Symphony, founded in 1963, is a tuition-free music organization for the youth in New York City,[1] widely reputed to be one of the best of its kind in the nation and world. Its programs include its flagship symphony orchestra, Chamber Music program, Jazz Band Classic, Apprentice Conducting, and Making Score (composition program). Its members range from 12 to 22 years of age.[2][3][4]

The Youth Symphony is also a leader in classical music with its innovative commissioning program called First Music, established in 1984, in which young composers under the age of 30 are selected to write works for the programs.[5] Commissions have included composers such as David Lang, Augusta Read Thomas, Julia Wolfe, and Aaron Jay Kernis.[5] Each Orchestra program (there are three each year) includes such a world premiere. There is also a First Art commissioning program for young visual artists. NYYS members are said to include the most talented young musicians in the New York area.

The Youth Symphony consists of young musicians from the New York metropolitan area, and has them perform before their careers hit full stride.[6] The orchestra rehearses under the supervision of New York Philharmonic members, and performs at Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, Lincoln Center, and local colleges.[6]

Symphony Orchestra[edit]

The Orchestra, the flagship program of the NYYS, was founded in 1963.[2] It has had a tradition of seeking the best young orchestral talent in the New York area from ages 12 to 22. The New York Times wrote: "its players ... are sufficiently devoted to the music that when they perform at Carnegie Hall ... they produce a sound that would do an adult orchestra proud, in programs built largely of cornerstones of the standard canon."[7]

The orchestra plays three programs per year, each of which is performed at both United Palace and Carnegie Hall. The New York Times reported: "Its Carnegie Hall concerts are always ambitious and usually excellent".[2] Each program usually includes, at least, a cornerstone of the orchestral repertoire and a premiere of a commissioned work. Usually a soloist or soloists perform, either an established artist, or a young artist as presented by the Roy and Shirley Durst Debut Series which was founded in 1997. The first Durst artist was Alisa Weilerstein.[8] For the 2010–11 season, these artists were Anthony McGill, Principal Clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera, violinist Hahn-Bin, and percussionist/composer Eric Guinivan.

The orchestra has not appointed established educators to fill its role as music director. Rather, it has had music directors who at the time were young; many of those conductors have become renowned. The music directors of the Orchestra have been:

Michael Repper is the current music director, with assistant conductor Alan Buxbaum.[14]

Chamber Music program[edit]

The Chamber Music program provides musicians aged 12 to 22 opportunity to participate in chamber ensembles of a variety of instrumentations. Its current director is Lisa Tipton, of the Meridian Quartet.[15][16]

The program uses established musicians teach master classes. The coaches for 2008–09 were:

Jazz Band Classic[edit]

Jazz Band Classic is a 16-member big band dedicated to studying, rehearsing, and performing jazz music. Modeled on the bands of the 1930s and 1940s, Jazz Band Classic preserves this heritage and, keeping with jazz traditions, incorporates it into the current and emerging styles that define the genre for the present generation. Matt Holman was the director as of the 2010–11 season. Performance spaces include The Garage, Symphony Space, and the Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Jazz Band Classic has featured soloists and clinicians such as Joe Lovano, Maria Schneider, Conrad Herwig, Steve Turre, Warren Vaché, Victor Goines, Slide Hampton, Jimmy Heath, Joe Locke, Eric Reed, Lew Soloff, Gary Smulyan, and Frank Wess, giving students a chance to play alongside today's most exciting professional musicians.

Making Score[edit]

Making Score composition program is a series of workshops for young musicians to explore the world of composition and orchestration. Students under age 23 who have a sense of curiosity and a taste for musical adventure. It is directed by Kyle Blaha,[17] who succeeded Anna Clyne, four-time winner of ASCAP Plus award. The founding director was Derek Bermel.

Making Score's sessions are segmented into two distinct classes: Pre-college Division and Advanced Division. The sessions are conducted at two different times, designed to accommodate participants' skill level. Each division has eleven workshops held from November through June. The sessions explore the musical thought of a wide variety of composers, with a focus on orchestration. Examples are drawn from the vast classical and modern repertoire. Using tools such as study scores and orchestration books, the course aims to cultivate the students' own voices through class discussion, written exercises, and free composition."

Guest lecturers include: Laurie Anderson, violinist, Robert Beaser, composer, Christopher Theofanidis, composer, Jennifer Higdon, composer, Paquito D'Rivera, jazz clarinet and saxophone, ETHEL, Nico Muhly, Stephen Sondheim, John Corigliano, Aaron Jay Kernis, composer, Steve Reich, composer, and Kathleen Supové, pianist.


Alumni include violinists Marin Alsop, Pamela Frank, Cho-Liang Lin, Shlomo Mintz, and Peter Oundjian; violist Lawrence Dutton; conductor and trumpeter Gerard Schwarz; flutist Ransom Wilson; and members of the Juilliard, Emerson, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Mendelssohn String Quartets, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, the Israel Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, and other major ensembles throughout the world.[18]


New York's major arts reviews regularly critique the Symphony's concerts:

Because the New York Youth Symphony is a student ensemble that draws on musicians ranging in age from 12 to 22, it can be easy to forget, from season to season, just how good it is. But its Carnegie Hall concerts have often been startling. Its programs are built around repertory cornerstones, which these musicians appear not to find daunting, and each concert includes the premiere of a commissioned work as well. The performance level is almost always what you would expect from a full-time, professional adult orchestra, and this group outshines some of the adult ensembles that parade across New York stages night after night ... After the intermission, Mr. McAdams conducted a sharply articulated, thoughtfully shaped performance of Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition.' It was the kind of reading that made a listener prize the details of Ravel's orchestration more than ever, both as a textbook demonstration of orchestral color and for giving this already vivid piano score a measure of depth and shading that Mussorgsky could never have achieved. Mr. McAdams's contribution here was an emphasis on the music's extremes of clarity and mystery, delicacy and grandeur.

— Allan Kozinn, December 2, 2008

The Youth Symphony is an accomplished, ambitious group of players ranging in age from 12 to 22. Mr. McAdams's tenure follows that of Paul Haas, a charismatic conductor whose adventurous programs drew attention to the orchestra ... A rousing account of Stravinsky's "Firebird" Suite (1919) offered further compelling evidence that the Youth Symphony is in good hands with Mr. McAdams.

— Steve Smith, December 11, 2007

The New York Sun has called the orchestra "America's best youth symphony."


The New York Youth Symphony abruptly canceled the Carnegie Hall performance of a piece it had commissioned after it was discovered to include a 45-second musical quote of the Horst Wessel Song, written by Sturmführer Horst Wessel, a district leader in Hitler's Sturmabteilung (SA). An anthem of the Nazi Party from 1930 to 1945, it is now banned in Germany and Austria.[19]

The canceled performance was of "Marsh u Nebuttya" ("March to Oblivion," in Ukrainian), a commissioned 9-minute piece composed by Estonian-born Jonas Tarm, a 21-year-old junior at the New England Conservatory of Music.[19][20] Shauna Quill, executive director of the Symphony, said the decision to pull the piece was informed by Tarm's refusal, when asked, to explain why the excerpt is included in the work.[19] Tarm said: "I really do believe it can speak for itself."[19] In a later statement, Tarm added that the piece is "devoted to the victims who have suffered from cruelty and hatred of war, totalitarianism, polarizing nationalism — in the past and today."[21]


  1. ^ Vivien Schweitzer (May 28, 2013). "Still Young, Even at 50; New York Youth Symphony at Carnegie Hall". The New York Times. Retrieved September 6, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Opera & Classical Music Listings for March 6–12". The New York Times. March 5, 2015. Retrieved September 6, 2017.
  3. ^ Jennifer Smith (March 5, 2015). "Youth Symphony Drops Commissioned Work, Cites Nazi Element". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 6, 2017.
  4. ^ Michael Cooper (March 4, 2015). "Youth Symphony Cancels Program That Quotes 'Horst Wessel' Song". The New York Times. Retrieved September 6, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Corinne Ramey (May 19, 2014). "New York's Cinderella Moment, Plus the Music of Youth". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 6, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Richard Laermer (2002). Native's Guide to New York: Advice with Attitude for People who Live Here—and Visitors We Like. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 260. ISBN 9780393322880.
  7. ^ Allan Kozinn (December 7, 2010). "Showing the Adults How It's Done". The New York Times. Retrieved September 6, 2017.
  8. ^ New York Youth Symphony Membership Booklet, 2008–09
  9. ^ Michael Dolan, Michael Shohl (2011). The Nation's Stage: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 1971–2011. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781451629446.
  10. ^ a b c d "Young Players Raise Horns to the Hunt". The New York Times. May 28, 2012.
  11. ^ Lisa Wong (2012). Scales to Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine: The Story of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra. ISBN 9781453218334.
  12. ^ "Joshua Gersen Named Assistant Conductor of New York Philharmonic for 2015–16 Season". Broadway World.
  13. ^ "Michael Repper". New York Youth Symphony. Archived from the original on November 11, 2017. Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  14. ^ "New York Youth Symphony Announces Appointment of Michael Repper as Music Director Starting 2017/18 Season". New York Youth Symphony. Archived from the original on November 11, 2017. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  15. ^ Chamber Music America magazine. 'The Chamber Music Program of the New York Youth Symphony has established itself as one of the most well-respected ensemble music training programs in the country ... [The program] provides a range of opportunities to study, perform, and rehearse in a context that balances structure with flexibility, guidance and independence, and discipline with inspiration.'
  16. ^ Watts, Andre. Pianist 'The Chamber Music Program' is truly a wonderful program for students of chamber music, exceptionally important to a student's growth as a musician as well as a human being.'
  17. ^ "Kyle Blaha". Archived from the original on January 2, 2018. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  18. ^ "About".
  19. ^ a b c d Jennifer Smith (March 5, 2015). "Youth Symphony Drops Commissioned Work, Cites Nazi Element". WSJ.
  20. ^ "Youth Symphony Cancels Program That Quotes ‘Horst Wessel’ Song", New York Times, March 4, 2015
  21. ^ Jonas Tarm (March 5, 2015). "Statement Regarding Cancellation of Carnegie Hall Debut". Retrieved September 6, 2017.

External links[edit]