The Los Angeles Youth Orchestra is a creative environment where
young musicians from throughout the Los Angeles area come together to
rehearse symphonic music alongside professional musicians. The orchestra presents young
musicians with the chance to study established masterworks and the
exciting opportunity to premiere new music. Additionally, the
orchestra offers a variety of unique enrichment experiences including
working with guest artists and mentoring with major
orchestras. Students with two years of instrumental experience may
audition, regardless of school affiliation. By providing an orchestral
experience available to all students, the vision of the Los Angeles
Youth Orchestra is to become a musical voice that embraces the entire
Los Angeles community.
For ages 8-18 and with intermediate and advanced groups, the Los
Angeles Youth Orchestra is open by audition to students of symphonic
instruments who have had at least two years of private
Why We Need You at Every Rehearsal
A note from the Artistic Director, Russell Steinberg
We can permit only a small number of excused absences from rehearsals each semester, and no excused absences are permitted for performances. If you know in advance that you will be unable to attend a rehearsal -- for a school trip, a religious observance, a family event, a performance by another group -- tell us as soon as you know about it. This will make it possible for us to better plan our rehearsal strategy. Please use the handy little Absence Request Form for this purpose We'd like to know about such absences at least two weeks in advance.
The potential for our orchestra to sound truly professional is within our grasp if we can minimize absences from rehearsals. We schedule as few rehearsals as we can for each concert that will still allow our orchestra to sound its best. But every student absence simply brings our overall performance down a notch. Here's why:
- We have only 10-12 rehearsals. Yes, the LA Philharmonic can do it in four rehearsals, but a youth orchestra needs a minimum of 10-12 rehearsals to master all the notes, intonation, rhythms, tempo changes, balances, and ensemble playing for a concert's worth of music. Believe me, if we could do it in fewer rehearsals, we would!
- When players are absent, the conductor makes decisions about balances, rhythms, articulations, and tempo that may be less than optimal because they are based on only part of the orchestra. Imagine planning your month with a calendar that has missing days! Your schedule would be off. That's how it is rehearsing a piece without the entire orchestra.
- Myth of "Coming Together At the End" I often hear parents exclaim at the concert how everything just miraculously "came together" at the end and worked out ok. Yes, to non-musicians, it does seem that the orchestra suddenly plays better at the concerts. But a careful listener easily detects intonation and ensemble problems in an orchestra where players have missed rehearsals.
- Ensemble playing that should be tight and in tune sounds ragged and uneven within the sections of the orchestra when players miss rehearsals.
- During rehearsals, we mark our music with pencils and make literally hundreds of small but important choices. When people miss rehearsals, it isn't possible to communicate all these changes. At the next rehearsal, we'll have to repeat the same thing for people who were absent. That wastes everyone else's time and leaves less time to rehearse. But even worse, often we don't have a chance to repeat much of the information and then people who are absent are playing the wrong fingerings, dynamics, bowings, etc.
- Learning is exponential; the muddy beginnings in early rehearsals grow into clear major results by the later rehearsals. If you miss rehearsals, you miss out on this important gradual process. Having to catch up, you may learn the notes, but the music still never fits right or feels natural in your hands. Remember that it is in the beginning frustrating stages that the real learning is taking place. It takes time for your brain to process new ideas and teach your body to perform them. You don't want to cheat yourself out of these steps.
- Regular attendance lets us get past the notes to the music itself. That's the whole purpose of the orchestra -- to create expressive music. But if players are absent, then we have to spend our last few rehearsals stressed out trying to just get everyone to play the notes correctly and together.
- Think of our rehearsals as 12 movements of an entire symphony. To experience the complete work you need to be present for every movement. Ultimately, the concerts and the entire orchestra experience itself mean more to you when you attend every rehearsal. I regularly receive emails from students during summer telling me they miss the orchestra. That lets me know that we are part of something very special. Honor our special orchestra by clearing your calendar of all conflicts on the days we rehearse.
How to dress:
Boys: white button down shirt, no tie, black jacket.
Black slacks, black socks, black shoes.
Girls: all black, either NICE pants or dress/skirt ANKLE length or floor
length. Sleeves must be to elbows or longer. Black shoes.
NOT ALLOWED: black jeans, black t-shirts, black tennis shoes.
What to bring: Please remember to
bring your instrument, extra reeds, rosin and strings, and cellists and
bassists must always bring an end-pin stop. BRING YOUR MUSIC, even if you usually use the music of your stand partner.
How to act:
Family members and guests should be asked to arrive in time to park and
find their seats. Latecomers will not be admitted until a suitable
break in the performance.
In keeping with the classical tradition, applause should be held until
the end of a multi-movement piece. You might advise members of your
party who may not be familiar with classical concert etiquette of this
Please remember that we are guests of the
places where we perform. You represent our orchestra, and you must keep
in mind that they may revoke their permission for us to perform at
their facility if we should abuse their trust. This means no running in
the halls or loud talking, cleaning up after yourselves and behaving
courteously at all times.
How to prepare sheet music for practice and rehearsals
Let's talk about sheet music. Before each semester starts, you should have received copies of the music from us - the librarian can help you with this. At rehearsals, both Russell and your coaches have things to tell you about the music (that's why we have rehearsals.) We want you to spend time writing those things (in pencil, please, so it can be changed!) onto your music, during, the rehearsal, so that you'll remember it. This makes those plastic sheet protectors, though neat and tidy and otherwise spiffy, not a good idea. Instead please punch holes in your music and put it in a binder.
The way pages are placed in the binder is important. Before punching those holes, lay out the first two pages on the table, next to each other the way they would be in the binder. Look at end of the page on the right - are there rests there so that the page can be turned successfully while continuing to play the piece?
Before punching the holes, look at the rest of the piece and make sure you'll be able to turn pages successfully. Sometimes there just is no way to make those page turns (that's why you have a stand partner; the player sitting on the inside always turns the pages.) Do your best.
Your coach will check to make sure you've got it right, and it can be fixed if necessary.
- If so, the holes should probably be punched on the right side of the first page, the left side of the second, and so on.
- If not, look at the end of the page on the left. If there are rests there, then probably the first page should have its holes punched on the left, the second page on the right, and so on.
Boy, having done all that, it seems as though you should be done, right? No. We need for you to practice, and practice regularly. Take the music to your teacher for help. Try to do the things that your coach has suggested, and find other places in the music where the same advice might be applicable. And then practice again. Sheesh.
In preparation for each rehearsal:
- Always check your e-mail during the week
and just before coming to rehearsal -- this is our best way to tell you
things you need to know.
- Call us if you will be late or are sick -- the phone number
to call is at the bottom of Sandi's weekly email. This is very
important, as it affects what Dr. Steinberg chooses to work on in the
- To every rehearsal bring:
||a music stand marked with your
name. You can use masking tape to provide a writing surface on the stand.|
||a pencil, and always have it with
||your own music, even if you have a
stand partner. Each of you should be marking your music in sectionals
so that you will be prepared to practice at home. Check your music
binder before you leave home to insure that you've got all your
The elements of each rehearsal
Sectionals: For most of you, half of
each rehearsal is devoted to sectionals. During this time you will
work on the orchestra music with a professional coach who specializes
in your instrument type. This is where you concentrate on just your
section's part. It is important to listen to your coach's suggestions
on playing techniques for your instrument. Study their example for
the tone quality, rhythm, articulation and intonation for which you
should strive. Our professional coaches are one of the things that
make our youth orchestra so special -- take advantage of it! They
welcome your questions about the music and about being a musician.
Always treat your coaches with dignity and respect, which you should
extend to your fellow ensemblists as well.
Break Time: Get a snack,
usually provided in the rotunda (but no food or drink in the theatre itself of in the sectional rooms, sorry) make friends, use the restroom and move
to your next location.
Full-Orchestra Rehearsal: The
other half of the rehearsal is with the full orchestra. Here you will
be rehearsing on the stage in the theatre with Dr. Steinberg. During
this part of the rehearsal you should be listening to how your part
fits in with the rest of the orchestra. It is during this time that
Dr. Steinberg will provide his interpretations of the music -- the
dynamics, tempo and articulation that make our presentation unique.
And remember -- watch the conductor!
At the end of the Rehearsal: Please
check that you have collected all your belongings. Other groups
use this space, and finding things left behind is very difficult --
they are frequently gone forever. We are
not on-site between rehearsals to go and look for things you've left.
The order of the rehearsal
Our usual rehearsal schedule is from 1:15 -- 5:00. Here's the plan:
Parents, don't drop your kids off for orchestra at the last minute. It takes time for musicians to set up, time to tune, and this should not come at the expense of the other kids. We've set out a small period of time at the beginning of the rehearsal that is meant for these activities; please allow the kids to use this time rather than arriving later and interfering with the orchestra or sectional.
- 1:15 Musicians arrive, go either to the theatre or the sectional room, unpack their instruments and set up their music and
pencil. Position the stand so that you can see both the music and the
conductor or coach -- this may mean raising the stand quite high. Tune
and then warm up by playing some passages practiced at home
- 1:25 In the theatre the concertmaster tunes the orchestra by sections: brass, then woodwinds, then strings.
- 1:30 The conductor or coach makes announcements, names the first piece to be played, and we're off!
- 3:05 Break time
- 3:25 The orchestras switch places, and the rehearsal continues
- 5:00 The rehearsal ends. Be sure to bring all your things home.
Seating Placement Auditions
What they are: These are short
auditions, occurring several weeks into the season, in which your coach
hears everyone in the section play excerpts from one or two of the
compositions the orchestra is preparing for the concert. Your coach
will let you know exactly which segments will appear in the audition so
that you can spend extra time preparing them. Students are then seated
within the section according to the needs of the orchestra.
What we look for: We like to see that
you have been practicing your part and listening during rehearsal. We
look for musicality in your playing, with good intonation and accurate
rhythm. In the case of string section leaders, leadership qualities are
considered as important as technique. In a section leader we want
someone who sets a good example with his professional attitude in
rehearsals. A section leader must also follow the conductor carefully
so that the section he leads will contribute its best to the orchestral
How to prepare: Pay special attention
to the pieces selected for the seating auditions -- they are usually
the most difficult on the program. Listen carefully during rehearsals
and sectionals for Dr. Steinberg's instructions and for comments from
your coaches, and mark your part. Take the music to your teacher for
help. Practice difficult parts of the piece slowly, carefully and in
small sections. Don't be nervous!
An orchestra has its own language and rituals, just like sports. Basically, everything is about coordinating up to a hundred people to all play together! It helps to get familiar with a few of the terms and procedures. Here are some important terms you'll hear:
- The way players attack a note. This is a big part of rehearsing. Common articulation terms are staccato (short), legato (smooth), and accent, but there are many more.
- The conductor's signal -- usually with the left hand -- given to a musician to let them know that it is their turn to play.
- One of the most important signals a conductor gives is drawing the baton straight down. That tells the musicians when a new measure of music begins. It takes students practice to follow the downbeat precisely.
- The loudness of the music. Much of why music is exciting to hear is because it changes its loudness. But not always uniformly! Often we want one section of instruments to play louder than another, given a kind of three-dimensional quality to music. You'll hear Italian words spoken for dynamics: forte (loud), piano (soft), mezzo (medium), crescendo (get louder) and decrescendo (get softer).
- This is one of Russell's favorite words. It's that point in a conductor's stroke where the baton seems to bounce off of an invisible barrier, and it marks the exact start of a given beat in the measure, such as the upbeat or downbeat. The location of the other ictus strokes in a measure depends on the meter of the work.
- The indication, given at the start of a work (or at any point of change during the course of the work), of the number of beats in each bar. Depending on the tempo, the conductor may indicate a different number of beats than you might guess from that marking, and he might say something like "I'm going to take this section in 2," so that you know to look for two conducting strokes in each measure.
- The speed of the music, given by the pace of the conductor's beats. Getting everyone to play at precisely the same speed is tricky and very important to practice with the orchestra. Some Italian words you may hear for tempo are: allegro (fast), adagio (slow), andante (medium walking speed), presto (very fast) and largo (very slow).
- The final beat in a bar, where the conductor draws the baton up.
Parents' Frequently-Asked Questions
- Why are there two orchestras instead of
- For some of our concert pieces all the students
play together in one large orchestra, but because of our wide range of
ages (8 to 18) and skill levels (2 to 14 years of study) we have found
the musical and social experience for all our performers to be better
if we divide into two groups. Each group plays challenging repertoire
of high quality, and each group has equal time with the conductor and
with the coaches. The musical difference is that the Concert
Orchestra plays music that is arranged to include a wider range of
instruments and skill levels. The Symphony Orchestra plays the same
standard repertoire that professional orchestras perform.
- Why do youth orchestras cost
- You might wonder why we ask openly for donations
far in excess of tuition. Sad to say, but most youth orchestras fold
after only a few seasons. Tuition pays for a small fraction of the
costs of running a youth orchestra. Basically, we assemble the
equivalent of a small town of 100 or more people every Sunday for
rehearsals. The organization that requires is considerable. We have a
staff of professional musicians that includes an excellent coaching
staff and our conductor. We depend on our staff to organize
everything from auditions to rehearsals to concert venues. Things
never go according to plan and our staff is great at problem
solving. We have a librarian; you wouldn't believe how complicated it
is to assemble and organize parts for two separate orchestras with
dozens of pieces of music. But first we have to search and buy our
music! We rent rehearsal space and concert halls and are required to
have insurance policies to protect our lessors and our employees. We
print posters and programs. We mail materials to students and parents,
audiences, teachers, and schools. We pay for concert recordings. We
meet continually with schools, teachers, and other organizations like
the Los Angeles Philharmonic to discover and pursue the best
opportunities for our students. Most of this activity and its
associated expenses will remain invisible to you. But when you sit in
the theater amazed at how our orchestra has improved, please know that
it happens because of all the effort going on underneath. That's why
we ask for your help in fundraising.
- Why does the orchestra play two (or more!)
performances of the same music? And the second concert is downtown and
on a week night - that's so difficult for us!
- Performing really focuses the attention of the
performers. Just as attending all of the rehearsals is critical in
building a good performance, a first performance provides an
incredible springboard for the next one. We are fortunate to have our
second performances at Zipper Hall at the Colburn School, a wonderful
performing space. Most performers will never get the opportunity to
play in a place this good, and we get to do it twice a year! Alas, it
is a wonderful space that is not affordable for us on the weekend, so
we take it during the week and count ourselves lucky.
- What should I do if another student is
bothering my child?
- Kids constantly surprise us when they act like
kids, and we do want to help all of our young musicians grow into
responsible and considerate adults. No child here should feel that
acting in a rude fashion is acceptable, or that no help is available
if another child is acting inappropriately. Please let us know if
there is a problem, and in a timely fashion so that we can remedy
things before feelings are irrevocably hurt! The program director is the
one to call for any issue like this one.
- Whom should I contact about other
- Bonnie is the one to contact about lost
music. Find her in the theater just before rehearsals or send a message through "Contact Us".
- Russell should be contacted about
repertoire, seating placement, or about a decision to leave the
- Your child's section coach should be
approached at rehearsals with technical questions specific to the
music your child is playing.
- The program director is the one to contact about anything else, in particular: if your child
is sick and will miss a rehearsal, if you have questions about the
time or place of a rehearsal, if you want to place an ad in the
concert program or buy concert tickets, if you want to set up an
audition, if you want to volunteer with the orchestra or if you want to make a donation.
- How do I prepare my sheet music for practice and rehearsals?
- Let's talk about sheet music. Before each semester starts, you should have received copies of the music from us - the librarian can help you with this. At rehearsals, both Russell and your coaches have things to tell you about the music (that's why we have rehearsals.) We want you to spend time writing those things (in pencil, please, so it can be changed!) onto your music, during, the rehearsal, so that you'll remember it. This makes those plastic sheet protectors, though neat and tidy and otherwise spiffy, not a good idea. Instead please punch holes in your music and put it in a binder, with the page numbers on side without the holes - this makes it so that the page turns work. Your coach will check to make sure you've got it right, and it can be fixed if necessary.
- Why do we have to bring only kosher food to
serve at the rehearsals at Milken? (What is kosher
- Kosher food is food that is prepared and served in
accordance with Jewish law. Milken Community High School has as its
policy that any food served at school functions must be
kosher. Parents, in taking turns to provide snacks for the break, must
help us to comply with this rule. Entenmann's and Pepperidge Farm
products are all kosher, as are any prepared foods marked with a
circled K or U. Fresh fruits and vegetables are all
- How can my child get credit for taking a
University of California-approved Visual and Performing Arts
- Contact the program director and let her know that you are
interested. Milken Community High School will provide a transcript for
your child's school at the end of the semester.
- Should I have insurance for my child's
- We recommend that you do so, especially for fragile
instruments like the strings. We need for you to encourage your child
to keep track of his instrument and to make sure that it is put
somewhere outside of the line of traffic. Especially at the Colburn
School there is very little room for instruments and lots of kids
acting like kids (good kids, but still kids.) One source for insurance
is the Musical Instrument Insurance Agency, (800) 421-1283.
The orchestra phone number is (310) 571-LAYO.
Alas, email addresses posted on the web are the immediate targets of
spam, so we won't do that here. We send regular emails to the
orchestra as a whole, and anyone on the staff or faculty can be
reached by responding to those messages. And there is a message
window on the LAYO website that works, as well.