History of the Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon

The Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon was founded by music teachers and members of the Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra in order to provide aspiring and accomplished young instrumental musicians with opportunities to learn and play standard orchestral repertoire, contemporary and commissioned music, concerti and masterworks, arrangements for prepratory orchestra and string ensemble, and chamber music. To date, the YSSO organization has presented works by more than 125 composers.

The Youth Symphony's first concert was held in Ashland on December 4, 1988. Conductors have included Clarence Shaw, Arthur Shaw, Fred Palmer, Sylvain Fremaux, Phillip Bayles, Leanna Sterios, Cynthia Hutton, Ellie Malzahn and Faina Podolnaya.

The YSSO organization initiated a Concerto Competition for advanced Youth Symphony musicians in 1990.  A Preparatory Orchestra for intermediate level musicians was formed in 1991. Cynthia Hutton, D.M.A., was named Music Director and Conductor of the Youth Symphony and the Preparatory Orchestra in 1995. That year, the season was expanded to include Concert Series performances in professional venues in Grants Pass, Medford and Ashland. 

Youth Strings, a string ensemble for entry-level musicians, was formed in 1998.  The ensemble was led by YSSO Associate Conductor Ellie Malzahn. Faina Podolnaya derved as YSSO Associate Conductor and Conductor of Youth Strings from 2000-2001 to 2014-2015. 

A Chamber Music Series was initiated in 2004-2005. Executive Director Sharon Wilson joined the staff in 2005.

The Youth Symphony was invited to perform at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts in Eugene as part of the 2010 Oregon Music Educators Conference.

The 2017-2018 season marks the YSSO organization's 30th Anniversary Concert Season. Special music, a new partnership and other activities are planned. The season will include three Community Outreach Concerts at the Rogue Valley Manor, a special Youth Symphony & Youth Symphony Alumni Concert, seven Concert Series performances and the Concerto Competition

The organization celebrated its Silver Jubilee Concert Season in 2012-2013. The 25th Anniversary Season included special events, mayoral proclamations and concerts, performances with guest artist violin virtuoso Gilles Apap, a gala performance by current and former members of the Youth Symphony, performances of masterworks and the premiere of The Orchard City: Medford, Oregon 1913 by Mark Eliot Jacobs. The work was commissioned by the YSSO organization in honor of the Silver Jubilee. Dr. Jacobs created a second orchestral suite which was premiered by the Youth Symphony during the 2014-2015 season. The work, Crater Lake Fantasy: Another Sky at Our Feet, celebrated the geography and heritage of southern Oregon and Oregon's only National Park.

Currently, the organization includes Youth Symphony (advanced) and Youth Orchestra (intermediate). The ensembles include accomplished young string, woodwind, brass and percussion musicians from throughout the region. Although annual tuition is charged, it is the policy of the governng board that all qualified young musicians may participate in the YSSO. The YSSO organization offers tuition and lesson assistance to current YSSO musicians each year in order to help ensure inclusion in the YSSO as well as access to training and music performance opportunities.

The YSSO organization is an integral part of the region’s vibrant cultural community. Next season, he YSSO will collaborate with the Rogue Valley Chorale's Youth Choruses as part of the 30th Anniversary celebration. The Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon has twice partnered with Brava! Opera Theater to present two rising opera singers in performance with the Youth Symphony. Youth Symphony musicians have played in side-by-side performances with the Rogue Valley Symphony.  YSSO musicians take part in Chamber Music Concerts master classes, Britt Festivals programs and perform with numerous community and school ensembles. The YSSO works with public and private schools in Medford, Grants Pass and Ashland, as well as Southern Oregon University.  The Arts Council of Southern Oregon awarded the YSSO with its Award for Arts Education in 2000 in recognition of the YSSO's high-quality programs for young people and the public.

The YSSO is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Revenue is generated through contributions and annual gifts from individuals and businesses, Concert Series program advertising, Concert Series Partner (sponsor) support, foundation and agency grants, nominal tuition, ticket sales and fund raising events.

The YSSO organization has one full-time and two part-time professional staff members. A volunteer governing board of community members guides the organization.  Volunteer coordinators help recruit, organize and manage volunteers throughout the year.

The office of the YSSO organization is located in Medford.