Our History
& Mission

The Los Angeles Youth Orchestra contributes to our communities and advances the future of culture by developing and nurturing a passion for music in young musicians that lasts a lifetime through the study and performance of classical and contemporary music.

Beginning – the Stephen Wise Youth Orchestra – 1999-2003

The orchestra was formed in 1999 on a semester grant from the Jewish Community Foundation, administered by Noreen Green and the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony. The orchestra was based at Milken Community High School of the Stephen Wise Temple and conducted by Russell Steinberg, a composer recently appointed Director of Music for the Stephen Wise Schools. Approximately thirty students enrolled in the orchestra that was called the Los Angeles Jewish Youth Orchestra. They presented a successful concert of Jewish music arrangements at Milken Community High School. At the conclusion of this grant, Stephen S. Wise Temple Director of Education Metuka Benjamin convinced senior rabbi Isaiah Zeldin to have the temple continue sponsoring the orchestra. The orchestra broadened to perform all orchestral repertoire. Russell Steinberg created complete arrangements of the first five Haydn symphonies and began composing original works that highlighted the students’ strengths. Dr. and Mrs. Raymond Borun, through the Anna and Harry Borun Foundation, became the first major donors for the newly named Stephen Wise Youth Orchestra. In 2002, the orchestra premiered Steinberg’s with narrators Congressman Henry Waxman, Lowell Milken, and Mona Golabek. In 2003, the orchestra membership grew beyond Jewish and local schools to include over 60 students from fifty Los Angeles area schools, both public and private. To reflect this growing diversity, Steinberg renamed the orchestra the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra.

Los Angeles Youth Orchestra Early Years – 2003-2008

The orchestra operated with a staff assisting Steinberg that included Program Director Leslie Luciani and instrumental coaches. In 2003, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra began a partnership with Los Angeles Youth Orchestra, making it possible for students to attend working LACO rehearsals. These rehearsals afforded opportunities to interact with cello soloist Yo Yo Ma, conductor Jeffrey Kahane, cello soloist David Finckel, and many of the musicians of the LA Chamber Orchestra. In 2005 Eve Cohen became the Program Director and encouraged chamber music groups within the orchestra. In 2007, the Los Angeles Philharmonic selected the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra as a Partner Orchestra, awarding the honor of performing at Walt Disney Concert Hall in November 2007. In addition, various LA Philharmonic musicians now attended Los Angeles Youth Orchestra rehearsals and work with students throughout the year. For summer 2007, three students were selected to perform with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra in Opening Night at the Hollywood Bowl. In 2008, the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra collaborated with the UCLA Music Department to perform a concert at UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall featuring Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, combining soloists from the UCLA music department with our orchestra and a UCLA wind and string ensemble.

501c3 Non-Profit Status 2008

September 2, 2008 the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra officially became a non-profit 501c3 corporation.

Youth Orchestra Day February 28, 2010

In 2010, the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra spearheaded the idea of a Youth Orchestra Day and coordinated the event with three other youth orchestras: the Pasadena Young Musicians Orchestra led by Jo Stoup, the Olympia Youth Orchestra conducted by Fung Ho, and the Verdugo Youth Orchestra conducted by Samvel Chilingarian. The concert with four youth orchestras was held February 28, 2010 at Pasadena City College.

Each orchestra played a short selection of works. In between each orchestra performance were panels to discuss different dimensions of youth orchestras – a panel of conductors, a panel of students, and a panel of coaches. The grand finale of the concert was the world premiere performance of Russell Steinberg’s The Net of Indra with all four orchestras (about 350 players) – brass in the upper balcony, violins and violas up and down the aisles in the audience, woodwinds in the pit, and percussion, cellos, and double basses on stage. Both the Los Angeles City Council and the Pasadena City Council issued proclamations declaring February 28, 2010 “Youth Orchestra Day.”

Saban Theater 2011

Due to the increasing rental cost of the Milken High School auditorium, the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra moved to the Saban Theater, a newly renovated art deco theater in Beverly Hills. Rehearsals became problematic when the theater had conflicts with new stage productions and this new home only lasted one year. The orchestra returned to Milken Community High School.

Carnegie Hall Tour 2013

In November 2012, Program Director Eve Cohen passed away. Her death was a huge loss for the orchestra. Flute coach Michelle Matsumune assumed her duties and just months later, in March 2013, the orchestra embarked on its first tour, qualifying by recording submission for a Carnegie Hall performance with Manhattan Concert Productions. The orchestra – sixty-two students – performed the entire second half of the concert to a full house and standing ovation. The program included Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 and the world premiere’s of Steinberg’s Carnegie Overture and EveStar (dedicated to Eve Cohen).

A New Home – Encino Community Center – 2013 to Present

In spring 2013, Milken Community High School gave notice to the orchestra that it no longer would allow Sunday rehearsals in the auditorium, in order to make the space available for its musical theater program. On short notice, the orchestra looked around the city for rehearsal venues. Temple Valley Beth Shalom was particularly helpful, renting their space for several rehearsals at very low cost. The other rehearsals took place at New Roads School in Santa Monica. The rest of the year was spent considering over twenty different possible venues. A wonderful opportunity became available in Encino where the Park Services and Recreation offered use of the Encino Community Center at a reasonable rental that included use of two buildings and a storage container for the orchestra’s music stands, percussion, and library. The orchestra formally left Milken Community School and the Stephen Wise Temple in fall 2014.

LAYO 1st International Tour – Vienna-Prague Tour 2015

In fall 2014 preparations began for the orchestra’s first international tour, specifically to perform in Vienna and Prague. An opportunity had come to collaborate with conservatory students from the Johann Sebastian Bach Musikschule in Vienna. Further, academy award-winning actor JK Simmons, whose son Joe played percussion in the orchestra, offered to MC the programs. The orchestra joined with Music Celebrations International and performed three concerts to full houses. The first concert was at Haydn Hall at Esterhazy Castle where the orchestra performed Steinberg’s arrangement of Haydn’s Symphony No. 3 – possibly in the same space that Haydn premiered the work! The second concert was at the more modern MuTh Hall in Vienna. The program included the Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 and the European premiere of Steinberg’s Cosmic Dust accompanied with the slide show of images from the Hubble Space Telescope. The same program was repeated in Prague at the Rudolfinum Theater. Seventy students from the orchestra participated in the tour.

Ambassador Auditorium Debut in 2016

On November 21, 2016, LAYO made its debut at the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena as part of the 2016-17 season, which also included performances at UCLA Schoenberg Hall on November 20, 2016 and April 2 and 3, 2017. The title of the fall concerts, Classical Meets Neoclassical, reflected the 19th and 20th century repertoire including Haydn’s Symphony No. 92 in G Major “Oxford,” Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Fanfare for the Common Man and Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, featuring guest conductor Tomasz Golka and soloist Russell Steinberg on guitar.

Italy Tour and Encino Park Community

Concert in June 2017

In June 2017, LAYO presented its first outdoor concert at Encino Park, in partnership with the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department. This free community concert was a preview of the orchestra’s 2017 Italy Tour program. Works performed included Rossini’s Barber of Seville Overture, Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony No. 8, Mozart’s Symphony No. 32 and Russell Steinberg’s Alternative Energy.

From June 19-29, 45 LAYO students, aged 12-18, traveled to Italy and performed concerts at the Arvedi Auditorium in Cremona, birthplace of legendary violin maker Stradivarius; Terme Tettuccio in Montecatini, a town known for its healing spa waters and early performances by a young Giacomo Puccini; and Sant’Agnese in Agone in Rome, on the Piazza Navona, across from Bernini’s “Four Rivers” fountain. The orchestra collaborated with Italian students from il Instituto Monteverdi in Cremona and il Liceo Forteguerri in Pistoia.

Performances and Armani Holiday Concert and Benefit in Fall 2017

‘Symphonic Firsts’ was the theme for the fall concerts, presented at UCLA Schoenberg Hall and Ambassador Auditorium in November 2017. The Symphony Orchestra performed Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, featuring violin soloists Clara Ross at the Sunday matinee and Amber Park on Monday night and the Concert Orchestra tackled Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, as well as Grieg’s Prelude from Peer Gynt, Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours, and Brahms’ Variations on a Theme of Haydn, led by Adam Karelin, LAYO’s conducting intern.

In partnership with Giorgio Armani, LAYO presented the second annual holiday concert and benefit on Thursday, December 14, 2017 at the Emporio Armani store in Beverly Hills. This special evening was attended by both the LAYO Community and Armani clients and featured a performance of The Beatles ‘Yesterday’ led by Jay Rubottom and three double bass students; 3 Duets for Violin, featuring four students from the Concert Orchestra; a duet for violin and viola by Mozart and the Mendelssohn String Quartet No. 2 in A minor. In addition to hosting and catering the event, Armani generously donated a portion of all sales to the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra from that evening through the weekend.

Viola Boot Camp and Laemmle Live Concert Series in Spring 2018

‘Fate and Triumph’ was the title for the Spring 2018 concerts, presented at UCLA Schoenberg Hall on Sunday, April 15 and Ambassador Auditorium on Monday, April 16. The Symphony Orchestra performed Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and the Concert Orchestra performed Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien, Steinberg’s Carnegie Overture, Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise and Offenbach’s Ballet Parisien.

LAYO presented the first ever Viola Boot Camp on April 29 and May 6. This free two-day workshop offered LAYO students the opportunity to learn about the viola firsthand and was conducted by LAYO coaches Bryan Gonzalez and Sharon Jackson. 14 students from both orchestras participated, and Metzler Violins graciously donated the instruments.

LAYO students were invited to be part of the Laemmle Live Concert Series at the Monica Film Center on Sunday, June 3. Dubbed the LAYO Chamber Players, 15 student musicians, from both the Symphony and Concert Orchestras, performed solos, duets, trios and quartets with chamber works ranging from Bach to Granados. Matthew Pauls, bassoon, performed a stunning rendition of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, and Clara Ross, violin, and Alisa Luera, viola, premiered Three Scenes for Two, a new contemporary work by Adam Karelin.

Tribute to Ruth Borun in Fall 2018

The Fall 2018 concerts, titled ‘Eroica, A Tribute to Ruth Borun’ on Sunday, November 18 at UCLA Schoenberg Hall and on Monday, November 19 at Ambassador Auditorium were dedicated to the memory of Ruth Borun, LAYO’s unsung hero and long-time supporter.

The Symphony Orchestra performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 ‘Eroica’ and Russell Steinberg’s Stories from My Favorite Planet with LAYO alum Maxwell Karmazyn as violin soloist and KPFK radio host John Schneider as narrator. The Concert Orchestra performed Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, as well as Strauss’ Radetzky March, Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances 3 and 8 as well as Vaughn Williams’ Rhosymedre.

Concert Orchestra renamed the Ruth Borun Concert Orchestra in 2019

In January 2019, LAYO received a significant gift from the Anna and Harry Borun Foundation, the largest ever received in the institution’s history, and renamed the Concert Orchestra, the intermediate level ensemble, as the Ruth Borun Concert Orchestra. The renaming of the orchestra honors the memory of Ruth, a significant patron, friend, and believer in the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra since its inception.

Already, many of the orchestra’s graduates have gone on to impressive careers in music and many other fields. Some examples of professional musicians are: 

  • Niv Ashkenazi -Juilliard, Violinist 
  • Benjy Fox-Rosen – Double Bass, Klezmer composer 
  • Elizabeth Erenberg – New England Conservatory, Flutist 
  • Dorian Bandy – Cornell, Royal Academy of Music, Violinist,
    Keyboardist and Early Music Specialist 
  • Luke Santonastaso – UCLA, Violinist 
  • David Hertzberg – Juilliard, Curtis Institute, Composer 

Premieres and Contemporary Music

* World Premiere
+ West Coast Premiere 

Tzvi Avni – The Three Legged Monster + 

Max Aruj – Dangerosity * 

John Biggs – Little Suite 

David Clymer – March Suite * 

Michael Isaacson – Sim Shalom 

Kent Kennan – Night Soliloquy 

Kenneth Klauss – Concert Music for Trombone and Strings + 

Shalev Netanel – A Poem Heard Through Thin Walls * 

Russell Steinberg 

Symphony No. 2 (“What Is A Jew”) * 

Sabbath Fantasies I and II * 

Alternative Energy * 

Lights On! + 

Ruby Overture * 

Heart of the World * 

405:8am, Vienna 

The Net of Indra * 

Flag of 9/11 * 

Carnegie Overture * 

EveStar * 

Cosmic Dust

The Los Angeles Youth Orchestra is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, and donations made to the orchestra are deductible as provided by the US Tax Code.