BYSO's History A Brief History of the BYSO
Since its inception in 1958, the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras, formerly known as the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (GBYSO), has expanded beyond its original single orchestra and launched many new artistic initiatives. Today BYSO serves more than 400 young musicians from throughout New England, and is recognized as one of the finest youth orchestras in the country. The timeline below highlights some of the most memorable moments in the history of BYSO.
1958: Dr. Robert Choate of Boston University leads the effort to establish a youth orchestra for junior and senior high school aged musicians. Marvin Rabin is appointed Music Director, and the orchestra’s debut concert takes place at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall.
1962: The Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra (GBYSO) performs at the White House and at Carnegie Hall.
1963: A second full orchestra is established due to the demand created by the number of auditioning students; now known as the Repertory Orchestra, this group was originally called the Greater Boston Junior Youth Symphony Orchestra.
1964: GBYSO performs for the first time at Boston’s Symphony Hall. Dr. Artin Arslanian is appointed Music Director.
1967: Walter Eisenberg is appointed Music Director.
1969: GBYSO earns top honors at the first International Festival of Youth Orchestras in St. Moritz, Switzerland on its first international tour.
1970: GBYSO is the first foreign youth orchestra to perform at the prestigious Israel Festival of Music and Drama.
1972: GBYSO performs at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and later tours England, Scotland, and Wales.
1974: GBYSO travels to Colombia to perform in Bogota and Medellin (Boston’s sister city).
1978: Members of the orchestras share music stands with Boston Symphony Orchestra musicians in five Youth Concert performances of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture under the direction of Harry Ellis Dickson at Boston’s Symphony Hall.
1979: GBYSO returns to Colombia by popular demand.
1980: GBYSO participates in an exchange with the Düsseldorf Youth Symphony Orchestra and tours West Germany and Belgium. Leonard Atherton is appointed Music Director.
1982: GBYSO tours Montreal; the trip includes a joint concert with the Montreal Youth Orchestra. Eiji Oue is appointed Music Director. The organization’s highest-level orchestra becomes informally known as the Senior Orchestra.
1983: GBYSO’s Silver Anniversary celebrations include the commission and premiere of The GBYSO Music by Theodore Antoniou and a tour of France. GBYSO becomes an independent non-profit organization.
1985: The Senior Orchestra’s tour of Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Austria includes a performance in Budapest for the International Congress of Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, as well as an appearance at the Dubrovnik Music Festival.
1988: Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa serve as honorary chairmen of the Senior Orchestra’s tour of Japan. The Senior Orchestra premieres The Gesar Legend by Peter Lieberson, a piece for five soloists and orchestra commissioned by the BYSO. The soloists are Sato Knudson, Ronan Lefkowitz, Richard Sebring, Fenwick Smith, and Larry Wolfe, all BYSO alumni in the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
1989: David Commanday is appointed Music Director.
1991: The Junior Repertory Orchestra (JRO) is established.
1992: The Senior Orchestra tours Central Europe. After the tour, the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) presents the BYSO a special award given in recognition of the programming of American music on foreign tours. The Senior Orchestra performs Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 at Symphony Hall in a special Benefit Concert for the Children’s AIDS Program. The concert is named the Best Concert of the Year by an orchestra other than the Boston Symphony Orchestra by the Boston Globe.
1993: The Senior and Repertory Orchestras undertake an exchange with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras. The trip to Illinois features a performance at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall.
1994: The Senior Orchestra tours Finland and Sweden. The Repertory Orchestra travels to Minnesota on its first solo tour; the trip is part of an exchange with the Minnesota Youth Symphonies.
1995: Violinist Lynn Chang and cellist Yo-Yo Ma join the Senior Orchestra for the world premiere of Ivan Tcherepnin’s Double Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Orchestra, a work commissioned by the BYSO. The Preparatory String Orchestra, now known as the Young People’s String Orchestra (YPSO), is established.
1996: Ivan Tcherepnin’s Double Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Orchestra wins the highly coveted University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition; GBYSO was the first youth orchestra organization to be affiliated with this prestigious award. The Senior Orchestra tours Italy with a featured performance at the world renowned Ravenna Festival.
1997: National Public Radio’s Performance Today names GBYSO one of the nation’s five best youth orchestras.
1998: GBYSO celebrates its Fortieth Anniversary. The Senior Orchestra travels to England and Ireland for a six-concert tour.
1999: The Massachusetts Cultural Council ranks the BYSO #1 out of 45 applicants. The Senior Orchestra performs at Seiji Ozawa’s Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Celebration with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on the Boston Common. Bonnie Black becomes the Artistic Director of the BYSO’s Intensive Community Program (ICP). Federico Cortese becomes the Music Director of the BYSO.
2000: The Senior Orchestra tours France. Both the Senior and Repertory Orchestras perform at Symphony Hall during the venue’s Centennial Celebration. The Senior Orchestra participates in an exchange with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras.
2002: GBYSO collaborates for the first time with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the official chorus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The Senior Orchestra tours the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary, and joins in the opening festivities of the Twentieth Biannual Béla Bartók Choir Competition in Debrecen.
2003: The Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) awards GBYSO the prestigious Commonwealth Award in the education category, given every two years as the state’s highest recognition for individuals and organizations in the arts, humanities, and interpretive sciences. The Senior Orchestra tours California.
2004: The Senior Orchestra tours Estonia, Latvia, and Russia, and performs at St. Petersburg’s renowned Shostakovich Hall.
2006: The Senior Orchestra tours Spain and Portugal and takes part in the prestigious Granada Festival. The Preparatory Wind Ensemble (PWE) is established.
2007: The Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (GBYSO) officially changes its name to the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (BYSO). The Senior Orchestra becomes known as the Boston Youth Symphony.
2008: BYSO celebrates its 50th Anniversary Season with a sold-out gala featuring Yo-Yo Ma at Symphony Hall. The premier orchestra performs the world premiere alumnus Robert Beaser's Evening Prayer. BYSO's Intensive Community Program celebrates it 10th Anniversary.
2009: BYSO announces a new partnership with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) to co-present the BSO's Youth & Family Subscription Series. Click here to learn more!
2010: Boston Youth Symphony departs for its 20th International tour, performing in the United Kingdom at the Chichester Festival and Oxford Town Hall. BYSO's 53rd season auditions reached a historical high with 740 aspiring young musicians auditioning.
For more information about BYSO's recent accomplishments under the leadership of Mr. Cortese, click on BYSO Today.