Classical Symphonies Wiki

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 a three full symphonic orchestras, a string training orchestra, a preparatory wind ensemble, four chamber orchestras, a chamber music program, and a nationally recognized string training program for underrepresented youth from inner-city communities.

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, while making its programs accessible to underrepresented youth through financial aid and outreach."[1]

Each year, BYSO auditions around 700 elementary and secondary students, accepting around half of them.[1] BYSO prides itself on creating a community for young musicians, their families and the people that support their passion for music.

BYSO offers over 15 performances in some of Boston's finest venues including Boston Symphony Hall, Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory, Sanders Theatre at Harvard University and 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]

Eduardo Tobon, Managing Director of the Cards Division within Sovereign Bank/Santander Bank, is the current President of BYSO Board of Directors.[4]


Boston Youth Symphony (BYS)[]

The Boston Youth Symphony, BYSO’s premier ensemble, is composed of 120 advanced players. The group performs a wide range of demanding orchestral repertoire and is led by Music Director Federico Cortese and Assistant Conductor Mark Miller.

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 performs complete semi-staged operas (Così fan tutte, Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and MacBeth). 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. Every other year, BYS embarks on an international tour. These professionally managed tours provide students with first-rate performing opportunities abroad as well as cultural sightseeing excursions and activities.

BYS International Tours[]

Every other year, the Boston Youth Symphony embarks on an international tour. These tours provide students with an invaluable opportunity to perform abroad in internationally prestigious venues as well as to experience different cultures.

Repertory Orchestra (REP)[]

Under the direction of conductor Joel Bard, the Repertory Orchestra is an advanced, full symphonic orchestra composed of approximately 100 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. Joel Bard conducts Repertory Sinfonietta and John Holland conducts Repertory Camerata.

Junior Repertory Orchestra (JRO)[]

The Junior Repertory Orchestra has grown steadily from a small string orchestra to a full symphonic ensemble made up of over 90 members. Members receive group and individual coaching, which enables them to build solid, fundamental technical and musical skills. Adrian Slywotzky began his first season as the JRO conductor in 2006-2007. 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 graduate students from Boston University's College of Fine Arts.

Young People’s String Orchestra (YPSO)[]

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. Besides their routine performances, YPSO has also been featured as part of WCRB's Cartoon Festival.

Preparatory Winds (PW)[]

The Preparatory Winds, directed by Janet Underhill, is the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras' newest ensemble, beginning its first season in 2006-2007. The PW is designed to teach young wind players the fundamental skills necessary for successful orchestral playing. 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)[]

BYSO believes that every child benefits from engagement in the pursuit of artistic excellence provided in a nurturing environment. In 1999, 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 serves 75 students, including 18 new young recruits. 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[]

Every August, members in JRO, REP, and BYS start the season at the BYSO Camp, which takes place at New England Music Camp (NEMC). 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, relax, or practice.


Since its inception in 1958, the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras, formerly known as the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (GBYSO), has expanded beyond its original single orchestra and launched many new artistic initiatives. The timeline below highlights some of the most memorable moments in the history of BYSO.

  • 1958: Dr. Robert Choate of Boston University leads the effort to establish a youth orchestra for junior and senior high school aged musicians. Marvin Rabin is appointed Music Director, and the orchestra’s debut concert takes place at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall.
  • 1962: The Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra (GBYSO) performs at the White House and at Carnegie Hall.
  • 1963: A second full orchestra is established due to the demand created by the number of auditioning students; now known as the Repertory Orchestra, this group was originally called the Greater Boston Junior Youth Symphony Orchestra.
  • 1964: GBYSO performs for the first time at Boston’s Symphony Hall. Dr. Artin Arslanian is appointed Music Director.
  • 1967: Walter Eisenberg is appointed Music Director.
  • 1969: GBYSO earns top honors at the first International Festival of Youth Orchestras in St. Moritz, Switzerland on its first international tour.
  • 1970: GBYSO is the first foreign youth orchestra to perform at the prestigious Israel Festival of Music and Drama.
  • 1972: GBYSO performs at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and later tours England, Scotland, and Wales.
  • 1974: GBYSO travels to Colombia to perform in Bogota and Medellin (Boston’s sister city).
  • 1978: Members of the orchestras share music stands with Boston Symphony Orchestra musicians in five Youth Concert performances of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture under the direction of Harry Ellis Dickson at Boston’s Symphony Hall.
  • 1979: GBYSO returns to Colombia by popular demand.
  • 1980: GBYSO participates in an exchange with the Düsseldorf Youth Symphony Orchestra and tours West Germany and Belgium. Leonard Atherton is appointed Music Director.
  • 1982: GBYSO tours Montreal; the trip includes a joint concert with the Montreal Youth Orchestra. Eiji Oue is appointed Music Director. The organization’s highest-level orchestra becomes informally known as the Senior Orchestra.
  • 1983: GBYSO’s Silver Anniversary celebrations include the commission and premiere of The GBYSO Music by Theodore Antoniou and a tour of France. GBYSO becomes an independent non-profit organization.
  • 1985: The Senior Orchestra’s tour of Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Austria includes a performance in Budapest for the International Congress of Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, as well as an appearance at the Dubrovnik Music Festival.
  • 1988: Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa serve as honorary chairmen of the Senior Orchestra’s tour of Japan. The Senior Orchestra premieres "The Gesar Legend" by Peter Lieberson, a piece for five soloists and orchestra commissioned by the BYSO. The soloists are Sato Knudson, Ronan Lefkowitz, Richard Sebring, Fenwick Smith, and Larry Wolfe, all BYSO alumni in the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
  • 1989: David Commanday is appointed Music Director.
  • 1991: The Junior Repertory Orchestra (JRO) is established.
  • 1992: The Senior Orchestra tours Central Europe. After the tour, the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) presents the BYSO a special award given in recognition of the programming of American music on foreign tours. The Senior Orchestra performs Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 at Symphony Hall in a special Benefit Concert for the Children’s AIDS Program. The concert is named the Best Concert of the Year by an orchestra other than the Boston Symphony Orchestra by the Boston Globe.
  • 1993: The Senior and Repertory Orchestras undertake an exchange with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras. The trip to Illinois features a performance at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall.
  • 1994: The Senior Orchestra tours Finland and Sweden. The Repertory Orchestra travels to Minnesota on its first solo tour; the trip is part of an exchange with the Minnesota Youth Symphonies.
  • 1995: Violinist Lynn Chang and cellist Yo-Yo Ma join the Senior Orchestra for the world premiere of Ivan Tcherepnin’s Double Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Orchestra, a work commissioned by the BYSO. The Preparatory String Orchestra, now known as the Young People’s String Orchestra (YPSO), is established.
  • 1996: Ivan Tcherepnin’s Double Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Orchestra wins the highly coveted University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition; GBYSO was the first youth orchestra organization to be affiliated with this prestigious award. The Senior Orchestra tours Italy with a featured performance at the world renowned Ravenna Festival.
  • 1997: National Public Radio’s Performance Today names GBYSO one of the nation’s five best youth orchestras.
  • 1998: GBYSO celebrates its Fortieth Anniversary. The Senior Orchestra travels to England and Ireland for a six-concert tour.
  • 1999: The Massachusetts Cultural Council ranks the BYSO #1 out of 45 applicants. The Senior Orchestra performs at Seiji Ozawa’s Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Celebration with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on the Boston Common. Bonnie Black becomes the Artistic Director of the BYSO’s Intensive Community Program (ICP). Federico Cortese becomes the Music Director of the BYSO.
  • 2000: The Senior Orchestra tours France. Both the Senior and Repertory Orchestras perform at Symphony Hall during the venue’s Centennial Celebration. The Senior Orchestra participates in an exchange with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras.
  • 2002: GBYSO collaborates for the first time with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the official chorus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The Senior Orchestra tours the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary, and joins in the opening festivities of the Twentieth Biannual Béla Bartók Choir Competition in Debrecen.
  • 2003: The Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) awards GBYSO the prestigious Commonwealth Award in the education category, given every two years as the state’s highest recognition for individuals and organizations in the arts, humanities, and interpretive sciences. The Senior Orchestra tours California.
  • 2004: The Senior Orchestra tours Estonia, Latvia, and Russia, and performs at St. Petersburg’s renowned Shostakovich Hall.
  • 2006: The Senior Orchestra tours Spain and Portugal and takes part in the prestigious Granada Festival. The Preparatory Wind Ensemble (PWE) is established.
  • 2007: The Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (GBYSO) officially changes its name to the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (BYSO). The Senior Orchestra becomes known as the Boston Youth Symphony.
  • 2008: BYSO celebrates its Fiftieth Anniversary Season with a sold-out gala featuring Yo-Yo Ma at Symphony Hall.[5] The premier orchestra performs the world premiere alumnus Robert Beaser's "Evening Prayer".


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