What are the Winnipeg Youth Orchestras (WYO)?

The Winnipeg Youth Orchestras organization is celebrating its hundredth anniversary. It includes over 100 musicians participating in 3 different orchestras. This starts with the Youth Strings (strings only), and continues on to the progressively more advanced orchestras, the Youth Concert and the Youth Symphony, made up of a full orchestral complement of strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion.

Why should I join a Winnipeg Youth Orchestra?

This is where the big effort musicians put into learning an instrument really pays off… where they get the chance to share music and music making. The WYO gives musicians a chance to meet friends and build a sense of community around a common interest. It’s one of the best opportunities to develop confidence and musical skills, to perform, and to get expert instruction on ensemble playing from professional musicians.

Who can participate in the Winnipeg Youth Orchestras?

Any youth playing an orchestral instrument at a level of about Grade 5 Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) or higher. The age range of the three levelled orchestras spans from primary to secondary school students as well as some in their early years of post-secondary.

What is the time commitment for a musician?

Each orchestra rehearses one evening per week. Rehearsals are 2 to 2 ½ hours depending on the group. The orchestras start rehearsing in September and finish in April, with breaks that align with school and statutory holidays (such as Thanksgiving, Winter and Spring breaks). Musicians are expected to practice their music outside of rehearsal time and come prepared to play.

Where are rehearsals?

The WYO has used a variety of large venues (such as school gyms, music rooms, community centres and churches). These can change from year to year depending on size of group and the cost and availability of venues. The organization looks for space that is comfortable, safe, affordable and accessible.

Do the Winnipeg Youth Orchestras have concerts – when and how many?

The WYO typically holds a concert showcasing all three orchestras in late November or early December, and another one in April. Another concert usually takes place in February showcasing exclusively the Youth Symphony Orchestra, often with one or several soloists from their ranks. Each orchestra also participates in other performances throughout the year more tailored to their specific niches.

In addition to the regular concerts, what other events and activities are there?

In addition to the three core concerts, each orchestra has more performance opportunities. This includes playing at schools, in communities outside Winnipeg, at facilities such as personal care homes, and for special events. Other activities have included weekend music retreats, touring regions of Manitoba, collaborations with youth or community orchestras in other cities, and performances with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO). Musicians are also periodically offered the chance to participate in masterclasses with touring soloists and regularly receive sectional instruction from WSO and other professional musicians.

What type of commitment is it for parents/caregivers?

Parents/caregivers are not required to stay at rehearsals, just to support their musicians to get to rehearsals prepared and on time. The WYO is a not-for-profit organization that could not run without a certain amount of volunteerism. We ask that someone from each musician’s family commits to volunteer at least once during the year. You can read about roles on the website; some only require a one-time commitment of a few hours, while others are very intensive and great opportunities for those interested in becoming more deeply involved.

I want to be a musician in the WYO; how do I join?

Registration and auditions are held in the spring for the following season starting in September. Auditions give the conductors a chance to meet and hear each musician to make sure they are placed in an orchestra that best fits their age and ability, where they will be comfortable, have fun and be challenged. Musicians who miss the spring registration/audition but still want to join should contact the WYO administrator to find out about alternate arrangements.

What is the cost?

There is a registration and musician-development fee to participate in the WYO; see our Registration/Fees page for up to date information. There is a cost for tickets to attend WYO concerts, as ticket sales help finance rental of a venue.

The WYO wishes to make the experience as accessible as possible. There are bursaries available for musicians who face challenges in covering registration or additional fees. Please see the process to apply for a bursary if the registration fee is a barrier for you or contact the WYO Administrator to speak to us directly.

What type of organization is the Winnipeg Youth Orchestras?

We are a not-for-profit registered charitable organization overseen by a board. The WYO employs its conductors and a part time administrator, as well as a number of casually employed sectional instructors. Many activities needed for the orchestra to run are made possible solely through the efforts of our volunteers and board members. This model encourages a sense of community amongst musicians and families as well as keeping the costs of the WYO sustainable and affordable for participants.