Los Angeles Youth Orchestra: Calling All Musical Kids

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Many of pop music’s biggest sensations got their start with Classical music. Take Grammy-award winning singer Annie Lennox. Before she sang with the world-class pop rock group Eurythmics, or struck out on her own as a solo performer, Lennox spent years studying Classical flute and piano. Or, how about Kris Allen, the champion in Season 8 of American Idol. He played Classical viola from elementary through senior high school.

The Los Angeles Youth Orchestra  (LAYO) is a place where children and teens can learn about classical music.   LAYO experiments with cellos, basses, flutes, clarinets, oboes, bassoons, trumpets, trombones, French horns and tympani — gigantic drums that sound like cannons. If  a child can play any or all of these instruments, LAYO is now opening its doors to new members.


Conductor/composer Russell Steinberg

LAYO pulls student players from over 60 L.A. area schools and is considered one of the most musically and culturally diverse groups in the region.

“Our orchestra does not cater just to conservatory kids,” says Russell Steinberg, LAYO’s founder and conductor. “It’s for any music student who wants to have the experience of playing with other people. My hope is that these kids will be the ones who really understand that music makes a difference not only in their lives, but in other people’s lives.”

LAYO performs music by composers like Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi, Schubert and Aaron Copeland. But also tackles modern composers like Michael Kamen, who wrote music for films including X-men, The Iron Giant, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and WALL-E, and Danny Elfman, whose work includes music for all three Spider-Man films, Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, Men in Black, Men in Black II, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride and Terminator: Salvation.

“LAYO really does offer something for everybody,” confirms Steinberg, who received his Ph.D. in music from Harvard University and directs the Stephen Wise Music Academy.  He is also a faculty lecturer at UCLA, a popular presenter for the Philharmonic’s “Upbeat Live” pre-concert talks, and a prolific composer with several musical awards and commissions.


From its first few concerts in a humble school auditorium, LAYO has grown to become one of the most respected youth groups in Southern California. As a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Youth Orchestra Partners Program, they’ve performed at several of L.A.’s best-known concert venues, including Walt Disney Concert Hall, UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and Zipper Concert Hall at The Colburn School. Fellow youth orchestras now look to LAYO for leadership. One example: the first-ever Youth Orchestra Summit Concert, initiated by LAYO,  will be held in the spring.

LAYO’s alumni are inspiring as well. To name just a few: Doran Brandy, a 21-year-old Baroque violinist, conductor and musicologist made national headlines at Cornell University for his recent reproduction of Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni; Jonathan Zuckerman, who plays double bass and flute and recently performed with the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra and is now a second year student in the Caltech-UCLA MD/PhD program; Benjy Fox-Rosen, tours internationally with the gypsy/tango/klezmer/punk string band, Luminescent Orchestril; Violinist Niv Ashkenazi, who has overcome his battle with spina bifida to become a celebrated child musician and was one of four young musicians in 2007 to receive the “VSA Arts International Youth Award“ and play at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; and percussionist Blair McGloiry, who graduated from LAYO just last year,  recently found out he made the dean’s list at Berklee College of Music.

LAYO performs in December and April with weekly rehearsals (which are currently held at Milken Community High School). For more information, email Eve Cohen, Administrative Director, at eve@losangelesyouthorchestra.org, or call: 818-342-3932. Or go to www.losangelesyouthorchestra.org.

Sandi Steinberg is the Parent and Marketing Coordinator for the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra. She’s also a busy screenwriter, script consultant and actress. Who needs sleep? She can reached at: scriptsurgeon@earthlink.net

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.