In the conviction that music nourishes the mind, body and spirit of the individual and enriches the community, the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra provides a rigorous and inspiring orchestral experience for young musicians.


Founded in 1976, the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra (MSYO) serves over 120 student musicians and their families from more than forty public and private schools in the Central Valley.  Led by a deeply engaged leadership team, the youth orchestra attracts a diverse group of outstanding musicians and offers players the opportunity to share their gift of music in an inspiring and challenging orchestral setting among their peers from all social, economic, cultural and geographical backgrounds.  As a program within the Modesto Symphony Orchestra Association, MSYO members enjoy musical interactions with MSO musicians as well as guest artists and guest conductors through coaching sessions, master classes, rehearsals and side-by-side concerts.

The MSYO serves students of varying skill levels and primarily consists of two full-size ensembles that perform a three-concert series at the Gallo Center for the Arts.  

Concert Orchestra (Grades 5-9), Don Grishaw, conductor
Symphony Orchestra (Grades 9-12) Ryan Murray, conductor

Three chamber ensembles were created to provide additional opportunities for highly skilled musicians to perform and practice their musical skills in a small ensemble setting. 

Woodwind Ensemble, Ella Webb, ensemble coach
String Quartet, Ryan Murray, ensemble coach
Brass Ensemble, Ella Webb, ensemble coach 

All MSYO ensembles perform in and around the region; in addition to performing at the Gallo Center, MSYO students provide FREE performances at local schools and community organizations. The Concert Orchestra has toured San Francisco, Sacramento and the Central Valley. The Symphony Orchestra has toured England, France, Japan, Eastern Europe, Canada, China, and in the United States including a performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City. In June of 2012, the MSYO combined with the Napa Valley Youth Symphony completed a concert tour of Salzburg, Vienna and Prague, including a performance in the 2012 Mahler festival. Most recently in June 2014, the MSYO and Napa Valley Youth Symphony toured to New York City and performed at Carnegie Hall & Central Park as well as participated in the NY Phil Young Composers workshop.  The Symphony Orchestra will be touring Boston in June of 2018. 

The MSYO expects that all members contribute their talents to the appropriate school instrumental ensemble, where available. This supports our school music curricula and helps to provide strong leadership and musical role models in the school environment. The strength of the regional school music programs is vital to the future growth and success of the MSYO.

MSYO auditions are held initially each spring prior to the start of the following concert season and are open to any musician through the age of 19. Additional auditions and seating auditions are held throughout the season.


MSYO is a season-long commitment. Consistent attendance and preparation at rehearsals is essential to performance quality, educational value, morale of ensemble and retention of membership.

Cost & Volunteer Hours

MSYO tuition is $440 per year. Families with more than one child participating in any given year will receive a 20% sibling discount after the first full tuition. Tuition covers a only fraction of our costs. To keep tuition as low as possible, each family is asked to volunteer a minimum of 6 hours or provide equivalent services for the season. More information can be found in the MSYO Handbook.

Financial Aid & Scholarships

A limited amount of financial aid based on need is available. Financial aid requests will be reviewed in the order they are received. To apply for financial aid, please complete the financial aid form and follow the directions listed in the registration packet.