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COYO History

The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, one of northern Ohio’s premiere musical destinations for serious young musicians, will begin its 37th season in the fall of 2023. Since its inception in 1986, the Youth Orchestra has performed more than 160 concerts and has provided a musical home to more than 1,500 talented young musicians.  Students continue to be awed by the scope and quality of the orchestral experience afforded to them and to anticipate eagerly the start of each season.

In 1984, Jahja Ling was engaged as associate conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra.  With three years as founding director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra and a vision for Cleveland, he established the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra in 1986 and served as its music director for six seasons. Mr. Ling served as The Cleveland Orchestra’s resident conductor and as Blossom Festival director. He is now Music Director Emeritus of the San Diego Symphony.

Gareth Morrell, former Cleveland Orchestra director of choruses, became music director of the Youth Orchestra in 1993 and also was the founding director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus. Upon his departure in 1998, Harry Davidson conducted the remainder of the 1997-98 season.

In 1998, the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra participated in the second National Youth Orchestra Festival sponsored by the American Symphony Orchestra League. The festival brought together 450 of the country’s most accomplished young instrumentalists to study with esteemed artist faculty.

Only five youth orchestras were chosen from a national pool of applicants through a rigorous audition process.

Steven Smith, former assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra, became music director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra in 1998. At Carnegie Hall’s invitation, Mr. Smith led the Youth Orchestra in a “Family Concert” in 2001; that same tour included a performance at Penn State University. 

In 2003, James Gaffigan became the Youth Orchestra's fourth music director. During his three seasons, Mr. Gaffigan programmed challenging music while simultaneously maintaining the high standards of excellence that make COYO one of the nation’s leading youth orchestras.

Jayce Ogren began his three year tenure as COYO music director in the fall of 2006 and continued building upon the legacy of artistic excellence established by his predecessors. Mr. Ogren brought touring back to the forefront during his tenure, culminating with a four-concert tour to the Boston, Massachusetts area in June, 2009.

James Feddeck was appointed Music Director in March 2009. Mr. Feddeck led COYO on its first international tour to Prague, the Czech Republic, Vienna and Salzburg in June 2012.

Brett Mitchell began his four year tenure in August 2013 as the seventh COYO Music Director. Mr. Mitchell was committed to exposing young musicians to a variety of works including those by American composers. He lead the youth orchestra on its second international tour to China in June 2015.

Vinay Parameswaran was appointed Music Director of COYO in 2017. In March of 2018, Mr. Parameswaran conducted the Youth Orchestra and Chorus in an arts advocacy concert for the legislators at Ohio Statehouse. He led the youth orchestra on its third international tour to the cities of Linz, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest in June 2019.

Daniel Reith was appointed at the start of the 2022-23 season at Severance Music Center. Mr. Reith completed his Masters in conducting at the Norwegian Academy of Music with Ole Kristian Ruud, having originally studied piano and music theory in Freiburg and Oslo as well as conducting in Frankfurt. In addition to his conducting work, Mr. Reith is a talented pianist and chamber musician, having performed in concerts and competitions throughout Germany, Norway, and other countries.

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