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LYO's Commitment

In 2017, the Fund for the Arts articulated a strategic plan for maximizing the impact of the arts on economic development, education, and the quality of life in Louisville. Imagine Greater Louisville 2020 defines five priorities for achieving greater impact, expanding community involvement, and increasing financial support. The five areas emphasized are  Access, Cultivation, Education, "Equity, Inclusion & Diversity," and Promotion along with strategies and recommended actions for each.

The Louisville Youth Orchestra shares the commitment to these five priorities as it strives to offer a high-quality musical experience for its young musicians and their audiences:

Arts, culture and creativity are fully integrated into daily life and accessible to everyone in every neighborhood, every day. More art for more people in more places.


The LYO works to ensure that there are no barriers to membership and that free programs are offered to under-served schools and venues throughout the community.

Financial scholarships are provided to young musicians to help offset membership fees and the cost of private music instruction. The LYO believes strongly that every interested young musician should be welcomed to participate regardless of their financial resources.  More than 26% of LYO musicians receive need–based assistance to make membership possible.

There are four orchestras, seven ensembles, two school–based classes, and a chamber music program to make sure there is a place for everyone - from beginning students to the highly accomplished members of the LYO Symphony Orchestra.

Free performances include visits to under-served middle schools for concerts and side-by-side sessions with school music programs. A free side-by-side concert with the Louisville Orchestra and the  LYO Symphony Orchestra is performed each year during the Kentucky Music Educators Association (KMEA) conference with sponsorship by the Gheens Foundation and the Kentucky Center for the Arts. A free POPS concert at Iroquois Amphitheater is part of the Kentucky Derby Festival and has become a popular event with a large audience from nearby neighborhoods.

The LYO also schedules free concerts at nursing facilities each year to enable audiences that cannot attend regular concerts to experience the LYO.  Free concerts and carefully chosen venues are designed to reach under-served audiences throughout our community. 


Greater Louisville is a magnet for artists and creative professionals, where arts and culture organizations and creative industries, both institutional and emerging, are thriving.


The LYO is fortunate to have access to talented artists in the community who are able and willing to work with our young musicians. Over the years we have commissioned music from local composers and engaged professional musicians to conduct sectionals with our students during rehearsal.  Professional musicians from the NouLou Chamber Players coach and mentor young musicians in the new LYO Chamber Music Program.  The LYO also requires all its members to take private music lessons from professional musicians in the community.


Students from the U of L School of Music volunteer to work with beginning string players as part of our young string programs at Lincoln Performing Arts School. Advanced students from the LYO Symphony Orchestra may also serve as assistants.The LYO also has an assistant conductor each year from the School of Music.


Most importantly, nearly half of the musicians in the Louisville Orchestra received their early training as members of the LYO.  In fact, most professional musicians attribute their early artistic growth to membership in a youth orchestra.  We cherish and respect the artists in our community and are diligent about supporting their development and livelihood.

Every child in our community has the opportunity to experience and participate in arts and culture through experiences in their schools, out-of-school programs and with their families.


The LYO is fundamentally an educational organization.  All that we do is focused on providing a high quality experience for our musicians and we continually cultivate opportunities to work with schools, youth training programs, and other organizations.  Numerous studies have shown that classical music can enhance analytical skills. This may help explain why all graduating Seniors have been college-bound during recent years.

We currently train two beginning string orchestras that meet weekly for afternoon rehearsals at Lincoln Performing Arts School and Byck Elementary School.  More than 60% of LPAS students are on a subsidized lunch program and are pleased to have a beginning string program that they can take advantage of.  A parent of each young musician attends rehearsals and then helps to nurture artistic development at home.

As previously mentioned, an LYO ensemble goes to under-served middle schools each year to perform educational concerts and to work side-by-side with school music programs. The LYO also conducts music workshops with the Backside Learning Center at Churchill Downs.  The BLC's goal is to build community and enrich the lives of equine workers and families by providing the educational opportunities and resources they need to empower themselves and their children. 


In addition, the LYO works with the Americana World Community Center to present musical experiences for young people and their families. The AWCC bridges the gap from surviving to thriving for Louisville’s refugee, immigrant and under-served populations through education, family support, youth achievement, and career and financial development.  As a youth arts organization our costs are low enough to make such programs practical and they are enriching for our members.


Our most ambitious educational program is an annual middle school concert at the Brown Theater with classes attending during the school day. More than 1,400 students attend each year and the LYO provides teachers with curricula to help prepare their students for what they will hear and learn. Recent performances have “sold out“ in a few days and we hope to expand to more than one performance as funding becomes available. It is disheartening to see classes turned away.

Equity, Inclusion & Diversity
Cultural equity is leading the way to a more equitable, diverse and inclusive community improving the social equity and cultural vitality of the region.


The LYO mission is based on ensuring that all interested young people are welcomed and that any financial barriers to their participation are minimized. All activities are guided by this commitment and our success is reflected in key measurements.


Our diverse membership comes from 75 schools in Jefferson County as well as 16 surrounding counties and our minority mix is more than 36% of total membership with more than 26% of our members from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

LYO Mission

It shall be the purpose of the Louisville Youth Orchestra to provide a musical experience of the highest quality for all dedicated young musicians and to provide artful and meaningful education programs for young audiences throughout our diverse communities regardless of race, creed, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or economic circumstances. 


Our Board of Directors includes a Diversity and Inclusion Committee to promote and enable the diversity of  the Louisville Youth Orchestra community, including, but not limited to, the musicians, staff, and Board of Directors. The Committee continually monitors the demographics of the LYO, maintains a policy to report and resolve allegations of discrimination, and ensures consistent presentation of the Mission in all LYO communications.

Our membership, Board and artistic staff remain diverse and over recent years have included African American, Asian, Hispanic, LGBTQ, and other protected classes. This is essential to provide broad perspectives for fostering our mission.


Greater Louisville is recognized nationally and internationally as a leading city of arts and culture attracting talent to live and work here and tourists to stay and play.

The Louisville Youth Orchestra is recognized nationally for its achievements. We are one of the oldest youth orchestras in the country and are unparalleled in our diversity, inclusivity, and fiscal effectiveness. Our executive director has served as president of the Youth Orchestra Division of the League of American Orchestras and continues to serve on the League board.

The LYO also has the distinction of commissioning more new works that any other youth orchestra.  Over the past few decades the Orchestra has commissioned a new work about every three years.  This is important because it means that nearly every member of the LYO Symphony Orchestra had the opportunity to work with a composer and experience a new work for the first time.  The LYO was also the only youth orchestra in the country chosen for all three years of the Made in America project.  The project was sponsored by the League of American Orchestras (formerly American Symphony Orchestra League) and funded primarily by the Ford Motor Company. Pieces were commissioned annually from prominent American Composers and an orchestra was selected in each state to premiere the new work.

The LYO has appeared three times on From the Top, a weekly radio program that is distributed by National Public Radio (NPR) and heard by more than half a million listeners on more than 220 radio stations nationwide. From the Top is America’s largest national platform celebrating the stories, talents, and character of young classically trained musicians.


Our musicians are often recognized individually for their achievement.  For example, during the past two years a member of our Symphony Orchestra has been chosen for the National Youth Orchestra. Each summer, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute brings together the brightest young players from across the country to form the NYO. Following a comprehensive audition process and a three-week training residency with leading professional orchestra musicians, these remarkable teenagers then embark on a tour to some of the great music capitals of the world to serve as music ambassadors.


Our office receives dozens of contacts each year on behalf of families that are considering relocation to Greater Louisville.  Many families include children who are involved in orchestral music programs and they want to ensure that Louisville has a strong youth orchestra.   

With adequate support we believe that the LYO and other youth arts organizations can take a leadership role toward involving and engaging a broader portion of our community:

  • We are approachable even for people who have never heard live orchestral music.  It's pleasing when a parent or friend becomes engaged at a concert and discovers a passion for classical music.

  • We are cost-effective and can reach venues where professional arts are not practical.  It's a perfect synergy.  Our young musicians are thrilled to play before an enthusiastic audience and under-served audiences are often thrilled to hear an orchestra.

  • We offer a stunning level of musical quality.

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