The official youth symphony of West Virginia

Our Story

The West Virginia Youth Symphony originated in 1949 when the Charleston Woman’s Club organized the Kanawha Valley Youth Orchestra. It has operated continuously since then, becoming incorporated in 1968 as the Charleston Symphony Youth Orchestra and changing its name in 1991 to the West Virginia Youth Symphony. While the name has changed, the goal has remained the same – to provide opportunities for young people to perform in an orchestra setting.

Each year, about 125 young musicians participate, making it both the largest and the oldest youth orchestra in the state. Students come from as far away as Ohio to rehearse weekly in Charleston. Ages range from 7 to 20, and students from 36 public and private schools, plus college and home-school, are making music together each week.

The Youth Symphony has two all-strings groups, the Cadet Strings and the older Youth Strings, and the Youth Orchestra which includes our most advanced strings players joined by winds, brass and percussion. In addition, our wind, brass and percussion play in their own Wind Ensemble, and we have a Youth Winds group to advance the skills of younger wind players. These groups perform at two main concerts each year, as well as on the main stage at Symphony Sunday. Each year the musicians have the chance to form a number of chamber groups with individual instruction, and these are presented in a Chamber Concert in late winter. These chamber groups also play at a number of different public events, such as Charleston’s Good Night and Art Walk. All West Virginia Youth Symphony conductors and coaches are professional musicians with the West Virginia Symphony. As a result, the Youth Symphony aids the area economy by providing professional musicians with additional work, and the area culture by helping to keep these musicians in the region.

In the twin interests of furthering the musical education of the students, and taking West Virginia to other countries, the West Virginia Youth Symphony has organized three European Performance Tours. In 2000, 40 WVYS musicians traveled to Prague, Vienna, Brno and Budapest, performing in several locations and learning first-hand about the music they play. In 2006, more WVYS musicians traveled to Italy and Austria, visiting Florence, Venice and Salzburg, and performing in venues including a monastery and the Reichenhall town hall. At one location, the WVYS members met and dined with a group of Italian high school musicians, who then opened the concert for the West Virginia Youth Symphony. In 2012 a ten-day, three-performance European Tour to Hungary, Slovakia and Austria featured a visit to Charleston’s sister city, Banska Bystrica in the heart of Slovakia, and a joint performance with the Conservatory of Music there. Many of the students had the opportunity to stay in the homes of Slovakian families.  The WVYS traveled again in 2017 to Eastern European for another successful three-concert tour.

One of our requirements is that all students take music classes in their schools when available. Not only are WVYS members some of the best student musicians in the region, they are also among the highest-ranking students in the area, many taking AP and Honors classes as they prepare for college. The West Virginia Youth Symphony represents the best and brightest of West Virginia and has recently been designated by the WV Legislature as the Official Youth Symphony of West Virginia.

The Program

The West Virginia Youth Symphony is a non-profit arts organization that supports four music ensembles and various chamber groups:

  • The full Youth Orchestra for advanced student musicians approximate ages 13-22
  • The Youth Strings ensemble for intermediate level string students through grade 12
  • The Youth Winds ensemble for beginning to intermediate brass & woodwind musicians to introduce the concepts of orchestral music
  • The Cadet Strings for beginning level string students

The program includes rehearsals, sectionals, ensemble playing and concerts held September through June. Master classes, field trips, run-out concerts and other special events may be included as funding permits. Students are presented challenging music to encourage musical growth and to provide a stimulating learning experience.


The West Virginia Youth Symphony (WVYS) seeks to provide the opportunity for individual growth of musically talented and motivated youth through the training and performance of the highest possible quality of orchestral and chamber music literature. The WVYS endeavors to develop pride and self-esteem in young people from all cultural backgrounds through their individual musical achievement and to instill values, discipline and learning abilities that will benefit them throughout their lives. The WVYS aspires to perpetuate support of professional classical music by enriching local culture and to increase the awareness of and participation in such music in underserved communities.


  • Bring together the finest young musicians in the area to rehearse and perform together under inspiring leadership.
  • Enable students to experience elements of a professional environment including competition, responsibility and concert hall performance.
  • Develop performers and audiences for the future.
  • Offer students opportunities to broaden their repertoire by playing music of varied and differing styles.
  • Inspire other student’s interest in music as performers or listeners.
  • Enrich and encourage local school music programs.