Joseph Levine, Music Director of the Omaha Symphony, began his tenure as conductor of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony. Seventy students rehearsed at the Jewish Community Center, and in May, the Youth Symphony held its first concert in the Joslyn Art Museum Concert Hall.
In 1961, the Metropolitan Area Youth Orchestra, an organization governed by a board of school representatives and members of the Omaha Symphony Guild, added a second ensemble, the Junior Orchestra.
The Metropolitan Area Youth Orchestra adopted a new name, the Omaha Area Youth Orchestras. The organization began to expand under the direction of Music Director David Hagy and new orchestra programs were added as well as two additional yearly concerts.
OAYO added a third orchestra, the Youth Chamber Strings. OAYO performed a world premiere of a cello concerto, Romanza by D. Martin Jenni, and performed at the Midwest International Band/Orchestra Clinic in Chicago. In 1989, OAYO became one of the first youth orchestra programs to establish a private lesson scholarship fund for talented youth musicians with financial need.
OAYO introduced a chamber music program and added two additional introductory orchestras, the Elementary Strings and Honors Orchestra. OAYO performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and toured France and Austria. OAYO celebrated its 40th anniversary with Grammy winner, Richard Stoltzman. And in 1999, Aviva Segall began her tenure with OAYO.
OAYO established the Youth Conservatory Orchestra in 2001 and the Youth Symphony performed its first side-by-side with the Omaha Symphony. In 2002, the OAYO Youth Symphony performed in the National Youth Orchestra Festival. In 2005, OAYO performed in the Holland Performing Arts Center.
OAYO celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008. The All-Orchestra concert featured a 50th Anniversary Gala with families, alumni, and community members in attendance. The winter concert featured the Youth Symphony and the OAYO Alumni Orchestra, including Glen Hadsell, the very first concertmaster of the OAYO Symphony. The March concert featured several commissioned pieces.
The Omaha Area Youth Orchestras now serves 550 musicians from over 120 schools and 20 school districts across Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa. In 2015, the New Music Ensemble was added to provide musicians with the opportunity to perform contemporary pieces. OAYO continues to work with music educators, the Omaha Symphony, Omaha Performing Arts, Vesper Concert Series, and many more.
2018 will mark OAYO’s 60th Anniversary! Keep in touch for upcoming special events and celebrations!