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Opportunity, Impact and a Place to Belong: The Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestras

More than just an orchestra—The Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestras (GYSO) is a community where young musicians connect with peers who share their love of making music. Students form lasting friendships and have the opportunity to broaden their horizons beyond their own communities.

Established in 2006 as part of the Georgia Symphony Orchestra, GYSO is among the largest youth orchestra programs in the Southeast, serving students from 17 metro counties in elementary through high school. Through five orchestras (beginner to advanced) and seven instrumental chamber ensembles, including jazz and percussion, GYSO provides a place for everyone. 

A place to belong

Cellist Antonia Patel is a member of GYSO’s Camerata orchestra and a fifth-grader at Mount Bethel Elementary School who joined GYSO three years ago. She has advanced to a higher-level ensemble each school year since, all while making new friends with shared interests from different schools. “I love the challenge of playing harder and harder music and seeing my friends each week,” said Antonia. 

Older-brother Aidan Patel, a violinist in GYSO’s Philharmonic orchestra, is a freshman at Walton High School. He first auditioned for GYSO five years ago. “We had just moved to the East Cobb area and I felt GYSO would provide an opportunity to play as part of an orchestra and help me make new friends, too,” said Aidan. Like his sister, he, too, has advanced to playing in a higher-tier orchestra each school year. 

Sprayberry High School junior and violinist Zehari Williams is a two-year member of GYSO’s Philharmonic orchestra and Strings Symposium. “I wanted to audition for GYSO so I could play higher-level music with band and other instruments in a symphonic setting. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’m honored to be in GYSO,” she said. 

Impacting futures

Will Weaver, a graduating senior from Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, has been a violist and violinist with GYSO for the past six years. Will will be attending St. Olaf College this fall as a music major and he credits his GYSO experiences as being influential in receiving a scholarship to this prestigious institution. “One thing I’ve really enjoyed about GYSO is how many different ensembles there are, so you have opportunities to focus on things that might not be offered in school orchestral programs, like chamber music,” he said. 

What sets GYSO apart is its dedication to providing a nurturing and supportive environment for young musicians to develop their skills and perform at the highest level. Led by professionals in their fields, each ensemble works tirelessly to prepare for performances throughout the year, giving students a comprehensive music experience that fosters excellence on both an individual and collective level. 

Summer Auditions are open now. For more information about the GYSO program, audition process or need-based scholarships, visit