About The San Jose Youth Symphony

symphonyThe San Jose Youth Symphony (SJYS) is located in San Jose, California, and is one of the oldest and finest youth orchestras in the West Coast of the United States. Founded six decades ago as part of the former San Jose Symphony, SJYS has a rich tradition of musical performance and education.


The San Jose Youth Symphony gives young people a foundation for life through orchestral music. We create programs that assure young musicians achieve technical proficiency, musical knowledge and an emotional connection to music. We strive to make each performance for the community uplifting, spirited and exciting.

Brief History

SJYS was founded six decades ago in 1951 as part of the former San Jose Symphony and operated under the San Jose Symphony’s management until 2001, when the San Jose Symphony ceased operation. To preserve and continue the unique ability of SJYS to provide the musical education needs of children in San Jose and neighboring communities, the parents of SJYS member musicians mobilized to form a Board of Directors and incorporate SJYS as an independent, non-profit organization. Not-for-profit 501(c)(3) status was granted in 2002.

SJYS Today

orchestraAlthough SJYS is now an independent, music education organization, it maintains its historical structure of various instrumental ensembles and orchestras, consisting of:

Music Matters (educational outreach program)

music_mattersIn addition to its various ensembles and orchestras, SJYS continues its educational outreach program, “Music Matters,” which provides local elementary schools throughout San Jose with music education and after-school instrumental lessons. The program provides introductory lessons in music theory and history, combined with instrumental group lessons, and instrumental group performance. Its instructors travel to designated schools and provide on-site instruction, fostering awareness and introduction to music study for students who would otherwise not have this opportunity.

Our newest educational program, Bass Buzz, is a two-year educational program, offers classes to middle school and early high school students in double bass. This new program was developed to provide music education at an affordable, reasonable cost, to older students to address a chronic shortage of double bass players faced by orchestras everywhere. Thanks to generous funding from the Rotary Club of San Jose and The Valley Foundation of Los Gatos, SJYS now has double basses that can be used by its students.

SJYS Membership

The young musicians comprising the various ensembles and orchestras of SJYS, who range in age from eight to 21, are chosen in annual, spring auditions from hundreds of applicants. Each ensemble and orchestra performs in three concerts every season, and rehearses every week beginning in September through early June. In addition, all musician members must participate in a weeklong summer camp in August before the start of the new season. Along with their work with SJYS artistic staff, the musicians in the three orchestras receive regular, sectional coaching from local, renowned professional musicians.

SJYS Competitions

SJYS holds an annual Young Artist Competition (YAC) for the Philharmonic Orchestra, the Concerto Competition for the Chamber Orchestra and the Solo Competition for the Concert Orchestra. These competitions are sponsored by the San Jose Symphony Foundation. Winners of the competitions will be awarded with a solo performance with their orchestra and monetary prizes.

SJYS Premier Ensembles

The Philharmonic Orchestra, and now the brand-new Chamber Orchestra (inaugurated in 2010), are the premier ensembles of SJYS, led by Music Director and Conductor, Yair Samet, who was the Associate Conductor of the former San Jose Symphony. Membership is reserved for outstanding players who demonstrate strong musicianship and technical ability, and are capable of the discipline necessary to perform in a pre-professional orchestral setting.

The Philharmonic Orchestra performs in three subscription concerts per season at the California Theatre in downtown San Jose. In addition, the orchestra performs numerous concerts at various venues throughout Santa Clara County and at numerous community and city events, among them:community

  • The annual “Season of Hope” Holiday performance series at Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph in downtown San Jose;
  • Santana Row’s Christmas Tree Lighting Festival and San Jose’s Holiday Parade;
  • City Hall events;
  • San Jose Rotary and Kiwanis Club events;
  • “Kenya Dream” Concert held at Cupertino High School, co-sponsored by the Cupertino Rotary Club, to help raise funds to renovate a school in Kenya;
  • “Chile Earthquake Relief Concert” held at the California Theatre to raise funds to help with the recent earthquake relief effort in Chile;
  • Stanford and Los Gatos Community Hospitals;
  • Community organizations, senior homes, and homeless shelters, including the Child’s Advocate and the Carlton Plaza Retirement Community.

Moreover, the Philharmonic Orchestra has collaborated with both local and international leading arts groups, among them the San Jose Symphony, San Jose Children’s Musical Theatre, Kurosawa Piano Music Foundation, Homestead High School Jazz Ensemble, the Chilean National Youth Orchestra, the Chinese Crystal Choir, the Asian Youth Orchestra, the Ireland National Youth Orchestra, the Okayama Youth Orchestra, San Jose Taiko, Firebird Youth Chinese Orchestra, Mariachi Cobre, and the Latin Jazz Ensemble from San Jose State University.

Biannual International Concert Tour

concert_tourEvery other season, the Philharmonic Orchestra travels abroad to perform in an international concert tour. During the summer of 2005, the orchestra performed six concerts in Spain with world-renowned pianist, Jon Nakamatsu, culminating in a performance at one of Europe’s most prestigious musical events – the Granada Music Festival. In the summer of 2007, the Philharmonic Orchestra performed five concerts during their Eastern European concert tour, performing in some of Europe’s most prestigious concert halls, including the Dvorak Concert Hall and the Liszt Academy of Music. And on its most recent international tour during the summer of 2009, the Philharmonic Orchestra traveled to South America with violinist Axel Strauss, visiting five cities in Chile and Argentina, culminating in a spectacular concert at Teatro El Circulo in Rosario, Argentina. The orchestra also performed two benefit concerts to under-privileged communities in Argentina during this tour.

concert_tour2The Philharmonic Orchestra has traveled in past international concert tours to Ireland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Japan, Chile, and Argentina, and has performed in some of the world’s most renowned concert halls, such as the Mozartsaal in Stuttgart, Germany; the Music Conservatory Hall in Brussels, Belgium; the famed Chofu Green Hall in Tokyo, the Shimin Kaykan Civic Hall in Okayama, and the Archaic Hall in Amagasaki, Japan. The final performance for the 2001 International Concert Tour was for a sold-out audience at Dublin’s National Concert Hall. The Ireland National Youth Orchestra, the Music Conservatory Orchestra in Munich, the Okayama Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Okayama University Orchestra, and the Archaic Wind Symphony have all performed with the Philharmonic Orchestra during its concert tours.