Prospective Musicians

The Omaha Area Youth Orchestras inspire and educate young musicians by providing a rigorous and enlightening orchestral experience.

We create a musical community that fosters artistry and friendship in an environment that promotes discipline, cooperation and leadership. We prepare our student musicians to become active participants in the arts community, and we achieve these goals in partnership with parents, teachers and schools throughout the Greater Omaha area.

How It Works

Musicians interested in participating in one of our season-long orchestra ensembles audition in April of every season with rehearsals starting in August. Late auditions are accepted throughout the year based on orchestra availability. Contact the OAYO office for more information. Musicians interested in one of our 8-week introductory orchestra programs need only for their music teacher to recommend them.

OAYO musicians receive:

  • Weekly instruction for one of our OAYO conductors
  • Opportunity to perform at the best venues in Omaha including the Holland Performing Arts Center
  • Bi-monthly sectional coaching tailored for their instrument from professional musicians and local music educators
  • Instruction from youth orchestra and professional orchestra guests conductors and directors
  • Opportunities for intensive practice and socializing at retreat events
  • Weekly coaching and individualized instruction for musicians in the OAYO Chamber Music Program


OAYO acts out our conviction that all children in the Greater Omaha and Council Bluffs communities who have a desire to perform in an orchestra will have the opportunity.

Providing need-based private lesson and tuition scholarships are a longstanding organizational priority. In the past season, 30% of the OAYO musicians received scholarships which accounted for nearly $20,000 in support from our operational budget. Program fees for Honors Orchestra and Prelude Strings are waived for all students receiving either free or reduced lunch in order to eliminate a financial barrier to participation.  

Learn more about the value of OAYO scholarships and how they work.


Auditioning for OAYO

Before any OAYO audition, the student should arrive early and warm-up. Warm-up space will be available, but students may share with others. Parents must be silent in the warm-up area or will be asked to leave. The student should plan for a thirty minute warm-up. Make sure you have your scales, excerpts (if needed), music, pencil, and instrument.   

Once your audition time arrives, be at your audition sight and wait for your name to be called. The audition is an important time to not only demonstrate your playing skills, but to show good focus, determination, and an excitement to learn.

Youth Symphony (YS)

youth-symphony-300-dpiRehearsals: Sunday afternoons from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at UNO Strauss Performing Arts Center
Conductor: Aviva Segall

Youth Symphony performs an annual side-by-side concert with the Omaha Symphony, work regularly with established guest conductors, enjoy an overnight retreat, and participate in regular sectionals with members 
of the Omaha Symphony, UNO and UNL faculty.

They perform masterpieces from the standard orchestral repertoire at a highly proficient level. 

Youth Philharmonic (YP)

youth-philharmonic-thumbnailRehearsals: Sunday evenings from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at UNO Strauss Performing Arts Center
Conductor: Aviva Segall

Youth Philharmonic participates in an annual side-by-side retreat with the Omaha Symphony and sectionals with members of the Omaha Symphony, UNO and UNL faculty and other area professionals.

They perform pieces from the standard orchestral repertoire while refining orchestral technique. 

Youth Conservatory Orchestra (YCO)

youth-conservatory-orchestra-thumbnailRehearsal: Sunday afternoon from 3:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. at UNO Strauss Performing Arts Center
Conductor: Peter Wilger

Youth Debut Orchestra enjoys regular sectional time with Omaha Symphony musicians and UNO faculty and participate in an annual retreat with an accomplished guest conductor.

They perform intermediate level orchestral pieces designed to allow students to excel as musicians.

Youth Concert Strings (YCS)

youth-concert-strings-thumbnailRehearsal: Monday evenings from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Conductor: Patricia Ritchie

Concert Strings performs two formal concerts and participates in numerous sectionals with accomplished local musicians as well as a side-by-side retreat with Youth Symphony members.

They perform intermediate orchestral pieces designed to serve as an energetic introduction to OAYO.  

Honors Orchestra (HO)

honors-orchestra-thumbnailRehearsal: Saturday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Conductor: Patty Ritchie

Honors Orchestra runs for 8 weeks beginning in September and students work with professional conductors and sectional coaches. Membership is based on recommendations from school or private music teachers with no audition is required.

They perform introductory level orchestral pieces for students in grades 5 through 8 that serves as an opportunity for young musicians to play in a full orchestra with other talented musicians from the Omaha area.

Prelude Strings (PS)

prelude-strings-thumbnailRehearsal: Saturday Mornings from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Conductor: Ann Frame

Prelude Strings runs for 8 weeks beginning in January. 
Membership is based on recommendations from school or private music teachers, with no audition is required. This is a preparatory ensemble that provides an opportunity for string students in grades 4 through 6 to play in an orchestra with other talented musicians from the Omaha area, working with professional conductors and sectional coaches.

Chamber Music Program (CME)

chamber-music-thumbnailRehearsal: Times vary depending on musician’s orchestra membership
Conductors: Music Instructors from Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa

Open to any member of the audition-based orchestras, OAYO chamber music ensembles present a formal concert each season and have the opportunity to perform at private and corporate functions throughout the city.

19 ensembles and 27 years strong, OAYO’s chamber music program helps develop young musicians into stronger performers. Chamber music is a team effort that requires each musician’s personal commitment to their individual parts as well as the ensemble.

Percussion Ensemble (PE)

percussion-ensemble-thumbnailRehearsal: Sunday evenings from 4:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Conductor: Spencer Jones

The Percussion Ensemble practices and performs with both Youth Philharmonic and Youth Symphony throughout the season and also practice as a small ensemble and present their own concert.

Musicians receive the best of both worlds as they experience both orchestra and small ensemble playing.

New Music Ensemble (NME)

new-music-ensemble-concertVaries by year

OAYO’s New Music Ensemble is led by conductor Vimbayi Kaziboni and is made up of selected OAYO musicians every season. The ensemble performs fascinating contemporary pieces from our time.