Our mission is to enhance the quality of life for Oregon’s youth by providing the opportunity to learn and perform orchestral music together in a non-competitive environment.

Introducing more students and community members to classical music is a priority and the sole purpose of the Oregon Coast Youth Symphony Festival. One of the primary purposes of the Festival is to bring students together to play music without putting any kind of financial barriers or obstacles in their way. Schools participate completely free of charge. The orchestras pay their own bus transportation to and from Newport as they would for other school field trips.  The Festival pays for all the other expenses (e.g., housing, food, professional clinicians).

The Oregon Coast Youth Symphony Festival is the premier destination for youth orchestras in the Pacific Northwest. Our clinics, led by professional orchestra conductors, challenge young musicians to grow their skills together. Our beautiful beachside setting allows youth to deepen their enjoyment of music in memorable experiences that will last a lifetime. Open to all, we especially attend to underserved communities whose youth might not otherwise have the means to travel as musicians, to receive professional-quality instruction, and to perform on tour.

The Board of Directors strategically identifies high schools with high rates of poverty for participation to (a) ensure that orchestras from around the state participate and (b) ensure that students who may experience inequity based on family income have the opportunity to participate. Making it completely free of charge to the schools and students was one way to remove the barrier of cost.

The Festival presents three major events each year: A four-day April Festival for high school orchestras, a Winter Chamber Music Concert Series with high school students and professional musicians playing side-by-side, and a Composers’ Symposium for high school students.

2019 guest clinician Helen Cha-Pyo conducts the Festival orchestra (student musicians of Grants Pass High School, N. Salem High School, Pendleton High School, Tigard High School, and West Linn High School) in the Festival’s finale: Ernest Bloch’s “Concerto Grosso.”

The Festival is one of Oregon’s and the country’s most unique and successful high school classical music programs. The Festival was established in 2016 is a 501(c)(3) non-profit tax-exempt organization and is listed with the Oregon Cultural Trust. The annual four-day Festival for six high school string orchestras was held in April 2017, 2018, and 2019. During the 2018-19 school year the Festival’s Board launched phase II, a Winter Concert Series (three events), featuring high school string quartets and professional quartets playing side-by-side. The Festival launched phase III, a high school Composers’ Symposium, during the 2019-20 school year.

Over the past ten years, high school music programs throughout the state have fallen victim to budget cuts, leaving no organized opportunity for youths to learn how to play a musical instrument let alone participate in a full orchestral ensemble. For those who can afford it, private lessons allow skills to be honed. However, this does not allow the youth to experience music by playing with others, particularly peers. Youths wishing to join an ensemble of any size must travel to communities where nonprofit organizations provide the opportunity for group ensembles. This scenario, however, is only available to those who can afford private lessons and travel expenses. For low-income youths, particularly minority youths, if an instrument and instruction is not available at their school, they have no other opportunity to learn to play an instrument or play in an ensemble of any size.

Some high schools have maintained their school-based orchestra programs. However, the orchestras spend their time together honing skills for competitions. There is little time for exploring the artistry of the music they are playing. Nor is there any structured time during the school year for individual musicians to spend time together and bond as friends and fellow artists. In addition, while high school bands and choirs have state competitions, there is nothing in place for full school orchestras. As such, isolation from their musical peers in other orchestras is keenly felt. Many students who participate in school-based orchestras are from either low-income or minority demographics making private lessons where artistry might be explored financially impossible. School is the only place they can learn to play instruments or perform with others. The Festival is changing this.

By attending this event these orchestras, as individual musicians and as a group, can explore music and their own artistic abilities in a non-competitive, collaborative environment. This opportunity will help them build self-confidence, teamwork skills, responsibility and a sense of pride in their accomplishments. In addition, for the school-based program, participation will bring with the opportunity for recognition in their local communities which help to strengthen and sustain these important programs. Lastly, it will inspire in the students a deeper understanding of the power of music in their lives, regardless of the paths they pursue after high school.   

We do not want any student or any school to feel they cannot participate in the Festival’s activities if they can’t raise sufficient funds. The high school orchestras pay their own bus transportation to and from Newport. The Festival pays all the expenses for the students, teachers, and professional conductors.

The Oregon Coast Youth Symphony Festival is a proud member of the following organizations:

The League of American Orchestras leads, supports, and champions America’s orchestras and the vitality of the music they perform. Its diverse membership of more than 1,800 organizations and individuals across North America runs the gamut from world-renowned orchestras to community groups, from summer festivals to student and youth ensembles, from conservatories to libraries, from businesses serving orchestras to individuals who love symphonic music.

The Oregon Music Educators Association is a non-profit 501c3 organization comprised of approximately 900 members who are dedicated to the music education of Oregonians of all ages. The majority of our members teach in K-12 school, colleges, and universities. Oregon is divided into 15 districts with elected district chairs who oversee the district businesses and contests. The district chairs also sit on the OMEA board of control to provide regional representation and perspectives.