In 1969, the Berkeley Youth Orchestra was created by Sally Kell, one of the first female conductors in the nation, to showcase the talents of the younger brothers and sisters of East Bay high school musicians. BYO was the answer to a need for elementary and middle school students that wanted a full orchestra experience and didn't have it in their schools. The orchestra subsequent conductors Yair Strauss, J. Karla Lemon, John MacLean, Judith Williams Gartrell and Ann Krinitsky led the ensemble through more than 30 years of strong musical accomplishment.
Our current Artistic Director and Conductor, Jay Lehmann, started at BYO as a parent: his daughter played at our 25th Anniversary Concert, back in 1994. In 1999 he volunteered to help the coach of the brass section; he took over on the following year as brass coach. In 2002 he secured our current facilities at the Laney College, and in 2003 he became our Conductor!
Under Jay’s leadership, BYO became what it is today. Jay’s vision of coaches supporting all sections of the orchestra materialized into the “Artists-in-Residence” program AiR - Heguine Boloyan, David Ryther, Ilana Matfis and John Bennet. AiR is present at every rehearsal to teach, serve as a role model and support our members. AiR in turn enables our Chamber Program, which gives our young musicians the critical opportunity to demonstrate their hard work and talent. Today BYO serves 92 young musicians from 22 different cities around the Bay Area, many of them sponsored through our scholarship program. We welcome musicians from grades 5 - 12.
BYO is the first full orchestra experience for many Bay Area young musicians; we teach them music as well as discipline and teamwork; we also give them the opportunity to shine in our Chamber Program. And our community of parents teach by example, volunteering at BYO and demonstrating what it means to be an active member of a community.
All content property of Berkeley Youth Orchestra - P.O. Box 11607, Berkeley CA 94712 - (510) 698-2296