The American Youth Symphony’s mission is to inspire the future of classical music by providing landmark fellowships to virtuosic young adults and exceptional, innovative, and free concerts to the Los Angeles community. Competitively selected, our orchestra is comprised of 100 musicians who represent extraordinary talent from all over the world. By offering our community remarkable concerts at world-class venues, we remain committed to creating access and opportunity for everyone to experience the inspiration of this beautiful art form. An elite fellowship opportunity, AYS is designed to prepare the concert artists of tomorrow for leadership in 21st-century orchestras and ensembles. Musicians receive in-depth exposure to the varied styles of symphonic music, from classical masterworks to world premieres and unforgettable film scores.
AYS is a tuition-free program, and each AYS fellow receives an annual stipend ranging from $1,400-$4,000. Fellows perform at renowned venues like Royce Hall and Walt Disney Concert Hall, and work alongside world-class guest artists such as Sarah Chang, Daníel Bjarnason, Anna Clyne, Glenn Dicterow, Johannes Moser, John Williams, David Newman, Alan Silvestri, Takeshi Furukawa, and Lera Auerbach. Designed to challenge, nurture, and inspire, the American Youth Symphony is a musical laboratory where fellows not only master their parts and develop a deep understanding of musical scores, but also explore their roles as musician citizens within their community.
At AYS, we aim to create leaders, innovative thinkers, and articulate communicators for the 21st century and beyond. Founded in 1964 by world-renowned conductor Mehli Mehta, AYS celebrates over five decades as an important architect in building the future of classical music. To date, AYS has trained over 2,500 musicians who now enjoy successful careers in some of the finest orchestras in the nation, including the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Metropolitan Opera. The three leading orchestras in Los Angeles – the LA Philharmonic, the LA Chamber Orchestra, and LA Opera – employ 37 AYS graduates.
AYS has firmly established itself as a “gateway” orchestra for aspiring musicians, as well as the field of classical music at large. AYS shares our love and enthusiasm for classical music with diverse audiences from across Southern California. In fact, AYS audiences are some of the most diverse to be found in classical music today. We have found that what begins as a free opportunity to experience something new often develops into a life-long appreciation for the art, with audiences who first came through the Royce Hall doors for a film concert returning for classical programs year after year. This creates a system of support both for AYS and the field at large. Therefore, supporters of AYS not only provide the gift of exceptional concerts to the Los Angeles community, they also are investing in the future of this beautiful art form.
American Youth Symphony strives to be a resource for the community, and in recent years we have expanded our partnerships to include collaborations with Title-1 LAUSD schools through our Share-A-Stand music mentorship program, as well as organizations like the Skirball Cultural Center and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. This season we are proud to be growing our presence outside of the concert hall through a series of chamber concerts presented in underserved areas. 2019/20 is the third year of the AYS Citizen Musician Fellowship, for which one musician is selected to guide his or her colleagues in learning how best to use classical music as a tool for social good.
We are proud to be part of this diverse and vibrant city, and excited to continue growing and evolving together.
Mission: The American Youth Symphony’s mission is to inspire the future of classical music by providing landmark fellowships to virtuosic young adults and exceptional, innovative, and free concerts to the Los Angeles community.
Competitively selected, our orchestra is comprised of 100 musicians who represent extraordinary talent from all over the world. By offering our community remarkable concerts at world-class venues, we remain committed to creating access and opportunity for everyone to experience the inspiration of this beautiful art form.
Mehli Mehta came to Los Angeles in 1964 to teach at UCLA and become director of the orchestra department. Within two months of his arrival, he took over the American Youth Symphony (then made up of university students) and made it his own with the help of Mildreth Sheinkopf Samson. AYS was his pride and joy. He conducted the orchestra’s first 33 seasons, only retiring at the age of 90. Under his guidance the orchestra grew into a 100+ member ensemble, with musicians ranging in age from 18 to 27. Most of them came from schools (like UCLA) that did not have the resources for playing the big orchestral repertoire of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Mr. Mehta cared deeply about what he did. Violinist Lawrence Sonderling, a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 1977 and a former AYS concertmaster, said that Mr. Mehta “did everything with great intensity and great purpose and great love for music. It was always the music that was the most important thing. In rehearsal with the orchestra, he would badger us, he would yell and scream; sometimes he would tell stories of things he had heard and seen in his musical youth. Always the intensity was there. And the passion.”
Mr. Mehta was born to Parsi parents in Bombay, India, on Sept. 25, 1908. He became interested in Western classical music while listening to his father’s records of violinists Fritz Kreisler, Jascha Heifetz and Efrem Zimbalist, and began violin studies when he was 5.
After studying at the University of Bombay and Trinity College of Music in London, he founded the Bombay Symphony in 1935, serving for 10 years as concertmaster before becoming its conductor. In 1940, he founded the Bombay String Quartet.
“I should have been born in Europe,” he told The Times in 1994. “In my 25 years playing in India, not one Hindu, not one Muslim came to my concerts. Only the English and the Americans came.”
Hoping to become a world-class violinist, Mr. Mehta moved to New York on a student visa in 1945 to study with the eminent pedagogue Ivan Galamian. “It was the heyday of great conductors and virtuosos,” he said. “At my best, unhappily, I was no match for Nathan Milstein and Jasha Heifetz.”
Mr. Mehta returned to Bombay to take over the podium of the Bombay Symphony, but wanted to return to the United States. When he was unable to obtain a U.S. visa, he moved to England in 1955. He served for five years as concertmaster of the Hallé Orchestra under Sir John Barbirolli, whom he acknowledged as “one of the greatest influences of my conducting life.”
Mr. Mehta joined the Curtis String Quartet in Philadelphia in 1960 as second violinist and toured with the group until he moved to Los Angeles.
With his wife of 67 years, Tehmina, he raised two sons who play important roles in classical music. One son, Zubin, former music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic, and former general music director of the Bavarian State Opera, is music director for life of the Israel Philharmonic. The other, Zarin, former executive director of the Montreal Symphony and the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, is executive director of the New York Philharmonic.
Mr. Mehta was the recipient of the Governor’s “Award for the Arts” of the California Arts Council: the “Magnum Opus Award” of the University of Southern California; the American String Teachers Award; the Award of Merit from the Mayor and Council of Los Angeles; and the Zoroastrian Association of California’s Honorable Award.
Maestro Mehta Conducts AYS on PBS in 1978
In May 1998, he left the stage after his farewell concert in obvious discomfort: “The doctor said that, were it not for the defibrillator regulating my heartbeat, I would have been dead on the spot.” He passed away on October 19, 2002.
Treger came to the American Youth Symphony in 1998, succeeding Maestro Mehli Mehta while maintaining the highest standard of training and performance quality. Treger has garnered numerous accolades for his gifts as an educator, his talent on the podium and, of course, his 36 years at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which included the concertmaster position. Under his leadership, the American Youth Symphony performed at Carnegie Hall and Walt Disney Concert Hall, and worked with numerous world-class musicians including Yefim Bronfman, Sarah Chang, Midori, Johannes Moser, Alan Silvestri, and John Williams.
After seventeen successful years with the orchestra, Maestro Alexander Treger completed his tenure as Music Director of the American Youth Symphony in Spring 2015. In the announcement of his departure, Maestro Treger stated: “Working for the last 17 years with so many exceptional young musicians, I have been inspired by their dedication and artistry. It has been a joy to guide them from talented student to professional performer; in fact, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.”
In May 2016, AYS proudly announced the appointment of Maestro Carrlos Izcaray as the third Music Director in the organization’s history.
“We are extremely fortunate to have Carlos Izcaray become our new Music Director. AYS musicians and audiences will greatly benefit from his artistry, enthusiasm, and experience. We all look forward to the future of this exciting partnership.” – Kevin Dretzka, Chairman of the Board of AYS
“I’m incredibly honored and excited to become the next Music Director of the American Youth Symphony, an ensemble with a deep history and a bright future in the great city of Los Angeles. AYS is without a doubt one of a handful of elite training orchestras in the United States, hence I cherish the opportunity to contribute to the development of the next generation of top professional musicians.” – Carlos Izcaray
Learn more: Carlos Izcaray, Music Director
Alumni in Orchestras:
AYS Alumni have joined the finest orchestras, enjoy successful careers in recording, and are on the faculties of prestigious schools. Their success speaks to the impact of our training program. We value your updates to this incomplete list!
Richard Cassarino, bass
Brad Whitfield, assistant principal clarinet
Joseph McFadden, bass
AUCKLAND ORCHESTRA (New Zealand)
Sophia Acheson, viola
Jonah Levy, associate principal trumpet
Steven Logan, principal timpani
Franklyn d’Antonio, concertmaster & orchestra manager
Rene Mandel, executive director
Cheonho Yoon, principal trumpet
Rachel Childers, horn
CHAMBER ORCHESTRA OF PHILADELPHIA
Stephen Tavani, concertmaster
CHARLOTTE SYMPHONY Taylor Marino, principal clarinet Brice Burton, principal percussion
CINCINNATI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Philip Marten, assistant concertmaster
John Bruce Yeh, asst. principal clarinet
Karen Basrak, cello
Stephen Tavani, asst. concertmaster Michael Sachs, principal trumpet
Richard Weiss, asst. principal cello
COLORADO SPRINGS PHILHARMONIC
Sergei Vassiliev, principal clarinet
COLORADO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Nicholas Recuber, asst. principal bass
DENMARK NATIONAL ORCHESTRA
Stanislav Zakrievski, violin
DALLAS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Bing Wang, violin
Michael Ke Ma, asst. principal bassoon
Peter McCaffrey, cello
Shannon Orme, clarinet
Hang Su, viola
Robert Williams, principal bassoon
Johanna Yarbrough, horn
ENSEMBLE ORCHESTRAL DE PARIS
Joel Sultanian, viola
FORT WORTH SYMPHONY
Allan Steele, principal cello Anna Kolotylina, principal viola
GRAND RAPID SYMPHONY
Joel Schekman, bass clarinet
Anna Lenhart, principal horn
HOLLYWOOD BOWL ORCHESTRA
Tim Barr, principal bass
Nicole Bush, violin
Rose Corrigan, principal bassoon
Gregory Goodall, percussion
Armen Ksajikian, associate principal cello
Barry Newton, bass
Radu Pieptea, violin
INDIANAPOLIS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Conrad Jones, principal trumpet
KANSAS CITY SYMPHONY
Maria Crosby, cello
Joseph Petrasek, associate principal percussion
Raymond Santos, principal clarinet
Edwin Outwater, music director
KNOXVILLE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Claire Chenette, principal oboe
Garrett McQueen, bassoon
LOS ANGELES CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
Maia Jasper, violin
Armen Ksajikian, associate principal cello
Connie Kupka, violin
Damian Montano, bassoon
Searmi Park, violin
Steven Scharf, violin & personnel manager
David Washburn, principal trumpet
LOS ANGELES OPERA
Tamsen Beseke, violin
Ryan Darke, trumpet
Marlow Fisher, viola
Mary Gale, clarinet
Gregory Goodall, principal timpani
Jennifer Johnson, oboe & english horn
Jenny Kim, horn
Daniel Kelley, horn
William May, bassoon
Jayme Miller, violin
David Stenske, associate concertmaster
Andrew Ulyate, trumpet
John Walz, principal cello
Mark Zimosky, percussion
LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC
Kazue Asawa-McGregor, librarian
Raynor Carroll, percussion (retired)
Richard Elegino, viola
Jerry Epstein, viola (retired)
Barry Gold, cello
Michele Grego, bassoon
David Howard, clarinet
Matthew Howard, principal percussion
Ingrid Runde Hutman, viola
David Allen Moore, bass
Jeffrey Reynolds, bass trombone
Peter Rofe, bass
Brent Samuel, cello
Barry Socher, violin (retired)
Lawrence Sonderling, violin (retired)
Dennis Trembly, principal bass
Bing Wang, associate concertmaster
LOUISIANA PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
Jack Pena, principal bassoon
MACAO ORCHESTRA (China)
Christian Goldsmith, principal trombone
Lu Ya, violin
MANCHESTER SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Andrew Tang, viola
Kari-Jane Docter, cello
MILWAUKEE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Ilana Setapen, associate concertmaster
Benjamin Adler, assistant principal clarinet
Gregory Milliren, associate principal flute
James Zimmermann, principal clarinet
Patrick Kunkee, co-principal trumpet
NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Paul DeNola, bass
NEW YORK CITY OPERA
Montgomery Hatch, percussion
NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC
Michelle Kim, assistant concertmaster
Roger Nye, bassoon
Cynthia Phelps, principal viola
Sheryl Staples, associate concertmaster
NORTH CAROLINA SYMPHONY
Sunrise Kim, cello
Silu Fei, viola Seth Bigolini, cello
Rose Corrigan, principal bassoon
Maia Jasper, violin
Marisa Sorajja, violin
Brook Speltz, cello
Viviana Cumplido, principal flute
RENO PHILHARMONIC Makena Clark, violin
SAN ANTONIO SYMPHONY
Marisa Bushman, viola
Martha Long, principal flute
SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY
Benjamin Jaber, principal horn
Rose Lombardo, principal flute
Julia Pautz, violin Johanna Nowik, viola Yao Zhao, principal cello
SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY
Yun Chu, violin
Yun-Jie Liu, associate principal viola
Brian Marcus, bass
Bruce Roberts, horn
Daniel G. Smith, associate principal double bass
SANTA CRUZ SYMPHONY
Nigel Armstrong, concertmaster
Eduardo Rios, 1st Assistant Concertmaster Sayaka Kokubo, viola Dana Jackson, 3rd Bassoon/ Contrabassoon
SHANGHAI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Julian Zheng, principal horn
SINGAPORE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Yu Ling Duan, violin
SPOKANE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Zhe Song, violin
ST. LOUIS SYMPHONY
Anna Spina, horn
SYMPHONY TACOMA Carrie Rexroat, horn
Theodore Chan, bass
TUCSON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Gabrielle Castriotta, oboe
Laura Odegaard-Stoutenborough, principal clarinet
Conrad Jones, principal trumpet
U.S. AIR FORCE
Christine Lightner, cello
U.S. ARMY FIELD BAND
J.G. Miller, principal horn
Ryan Zwahlen, principal oboe
Gabriel Campos Zamora, principal clarinet
Recent Accomplishments by AYS Alumni include:
Mariko de Napoli, first violin ’20: Accepted at Northwestern University for grad school
Mark Lillie, bass ’20: Aceepted to The Julliard School
Miles Mateus, contrabassoon ’20: Accepted to Glenn Gould School for grad school
Tatum Hodgson, cello ’20: Accepted to Cleveland Institute of Music
Johanna Nowik, principal viola ’20: viola section member for San Diego Symphony
Devan Jaquez, flute ‘19 won the 2nd prize for the 2021 Sphinx Excerpt Competition for the Woodwind Division
Sergio Coehlo, Principal Clarinet (2015-present):
Runner up in the Classics Alive Young Artists Auditions, and finalist in the 2018 Hennings-Fischer Young Artists Competition.
Adam Mendelsohn, violin ‘05 received his PhD in Bioengineering at UCSF/ UC Berkeley and founded a company (www.nanoprecisionmedical.com) which develops implantable devices that deliver medicine over many months for treatment of chronic diseases, starting with Type 2 Diabetes.
Coleman Itzkoff, cello ‘17 featured on NBC News in February 2021 for his virtual concerts with COVID-19 and Cancer patients with Project: Music Heals Us.
Garrett McQueen, Principal Bassoon ’11 hosted SiriusXM Symphony Halls Living American show in February 2021. Listen to Garrett weekly on his podcast, Trilloquy.
Geneva Lewis, violin ‘16 was awarded the 2021 Avery Fisher Career Grant.
Yvette Holzwarth, violin ‘08 released a new album Luka on Croatia Records in February 2021.
Congratulations to these talented members and alumni! We love seeing our musicians succeed.
If you have news about an AYS musician, submit this form or email email@example.com, and we’ll be happy to share your announcement with our community.