It’s that time of year when many students are auditioning for youth orchestras. I encourage all of my students to audition: every time a student starts participating in a youth group I hear significant growth musically. Besides, they can be fun!

I do have suggestions, though.

It’s really wise to attend concerts. There you can hear how the students play and see if the level is appropriate for you. You will get an idea of the music choices the conductor makes. You can also see how many “ringers” they have that are clearly years older than the published age limits for the group. You won’t be able to see if musicians are just a few years older, but when there’s a thirty year old on stage you can usually spot that.

If it’s possible, see if you can attend a rehearsal. How does the conductor behave? I don’t think conductors should merely say “good job!” all the time, and if conductors aren’t demanding they aren’t doing their job, but if there’s a lot of screaming you might want to reconsider the group. I remember being at a rehearsal for my daughter one year (not an orchestra, but another performing group) and the instructor made all parents leave because “You don’t want to hear what I’m going to say to your children!” Yes. He really said that. I was bothered but left. Now I’m sorry I did. If he wasn’t willing to say whatever he said in front of me he probably shouldn’t have said it. I believe parents should always be able to sit in on a rehearsal … silently, mind you! I don’t recommend parents always do that, but a few times might be a smart thing to do. (It’s possible I’ll hear back from youth symphony conductors and it’s quite possible they will disagree. So we’ll see if I can comments here.)

There are so many fine youth orchestras in our area, but do your homework. It’s just a good idea.

And hey, you can check out groups on YouTube! Here’s my friend Byung-Woo Kim’s group, the California Philharmonic Youth Orchestra …


  1. patti with an i

    Do you have anyone you’re sending to PYO? a good oboe is always welcome!

  2. I always tell my students about PYO, Patti, but they always say it’s too far away for them. They seem to want something in San Jose. I will continue to promote PSY, though! 🙂

  3. patti with an i

    I know things are different today –kids are very overscheduled and parents struggle with work and long commutes etc — but when I was in high school a flutist friend of mine from Berkeley played in the San Jose youth orchestra! Of course, she wasn’t also involved in sports and debate team and and and…

  4. Yep. My parents drove me nearly an hour away for oboe lessons, and went the other direction and an hour away for my brother’s bassoon lessons. These days that seems to be much more difficult. It’s partly how busy the kids are, and it’s also that both parents work 9-5 (or more) jobs.

    Music was it for me. Well, that and church. No sports. Nothing else. I knew what I loved and I did only those things. I think many are involved (over involved) to get the attention of colleges. (Then so many drop it all once they make it into their ivy league schools.)