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Meet YOSA: Youth Orchestras of San Antonio

Disclosure: My daughter and I received complimentary tickets to attend the YOSA concert, Brahms Reimagined. However, all thoughts and opinions are mine.

Laurie Auditorium at Trinity University

“Laurie Auditorium seems a fitting place to introduce my seven-year-old to YOSA (Youth Orchestras of San Antonio),” I thought, as I entered the auditorium last Monday night to attend their concert: Brahms Reimagined. After all, this 2800-seat hall is where I first developed my appreciation and love for classical music as a child.

I remember attending Young People’s Concerts at Laurie Auditorium in fourth and fifth grade, sitting in the cool, dark theatre, listening in wonderment to the 70 or so musicians from the San Antonio Symphony as they blended the sound of their many instruments together to create the lively musical story of Peter and the Wolf. I was mesmerized by sound, something I’d never before experienced.

It’s no surprise, then, that one of my college jobs was at the San Antonio Symphony, as the Young People’s Concerts coordinator (before I later graduated and moved into the role of Marketing Manager). I sold tickets to all of San Antonio’s elementary schools and homeschools, arranged the seating charts, directed the buses, and unloaded the kids on the days of the concerts. Ten years after my introduction to classical music, I got a kick out of watching a whole new group of kids get excited about hearing symphonic sounds, many for the very first time.

Now it’s time for me to introduce my own children to the delights and wonders of classical music. And, although my wish is that through experiencing classical music they’ll want to learn to play it, just getting them inspired to develop a lifelong love of the music will be enough.

At the concert, my daughter became fascinated with the harp, its beautiful construction, and otherworldly sound. Judging by the look of rapt attention on her face during most of the concert (and her request at the end of the concert to attend the next one in May), I think we’re well on our way to encouraging her love for orchestral music.

As for me, I was absolutely stunned at the talent these young musicians possess. YOSA Music Director Troy Peters said, when introducing the last piece of the evening, Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25 is an incredibly difficult piece to play. But these teens knocked it out of the hall. They were incredible. Get to a YOSA concert to hear for yourself what I mean!

What’s YOSA?

“We believe that the act of playing an instrument is what invests kids in classical music.”
Troy Peters, YOSA Music Director

Prior to the Brahms Reimagined concert, my daughter and I joined San Antonio mom blogger Michelle Hernandez, who blogs at Family Love in My City, and her family to meet with YOSA’s executive director, Steven Payne. Steven talked with us about YOSA and how it’s growing San Antonio’s next generation of classical musicians.

The Youth Orchestras of San Antonio are comprised of five orchestras of students representing 110 schools across San Antonio. And, it’s important to note that YOSA works with schools and school music programs, and not in competition with them, when finding kids who want to participate.

classical concert performed by young people, kids, and teens, in San Antonio, Texas

YOSA believes its musical programs are add ons to what the student is already getting from their school music program. Any child wanting to participate in YOSA must audition and, if accepted, they must sign an agreement that they will also actively participate in their school’s music program.

Over 1800 children enter into YOSA’s various programs each year and the youngest kids to audition are generally in 6th or 7th grade. They’ve had previous experience with their instrument, either through a free, introductory strings (or other instrument) program in their elementary school or through private lessons.

Kids audition for YOSA each June, regardless of previous participation (those who’ve been in the program before audition with the hope of moving up a level). If the child is offered a place in YOSA, there is a $100 sign up fee and an ongoing cost to the student beteen $30-40 per month for the duration of the eight-month program. Only 1/4 of YOSA’s operating budget comes from the fees parents pay. The rest, needed to pay the staff, for rehearsal hall rental, sheet music, YOSA’s other community programs, and more, comes from donations and fundraisers.

YOSA’s Community Programs

YOSA Mas is an after school program on the West side of San Antonio held at the Good Samaritan Community Services and led by Maggie Raveneau. YOSA Mas runs five days a week from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. All kids are accepted and instruments are provided. The idea behind YOSA Mas is for the participating kids (160+) to learn that their presence matters and that their fellow musicians count on them to make the music happen.

The Roosevelt Compact is a partnership between YOSA and The Rackspace Foundation to enhance and support the music programs of seven schools (one high school, two middle schools, and four elementary schools) in the Roosevelt High School Cluster.

YOSA also offers a Symphony Summer Camp each year.

San Antonio classical music performed by children and teens

Getting Involved to Help YOSA

About 1/3 of YOSA students receive some sort of financial assistance which is based upon need. And, to help with these financial benefits, YOSA accepts donations and sponsorships (members of the community can “sponsor a student” or an instrument in the orchestra). YOSA also holds two fundraisers throughout the year. “Stop and Feel the Music,” in January, is an evening of Pops music performed by one of the orchestras and it’s paired with live and silent auctions. And, in April, YOSA hosts a Beethoven 5k/10k where participants are encouraged to dress up like Beethoven and students are sprinkled along the course where they play the music of Beethoven to help cheer the runners.

You can support YOSA by attending their concerts with your kids. Money raised from tickets sold is helpful, but your presence and support at concerts is what fuels the kids to play. And consider donating and/or participate in YOSA’s fundraising events.

part of the San Antonio Brahms Festival

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