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(Image courtesy: AYS)

American Youth Symphony Announces Permanent Closure

Citing financial challenges, the orchestra is ceasing all operations as of March 15, 2024, after almost 60 years


Founded in 1964 by Mehli Mehta, the American Youth Symphony (AYS) has supported many emerging artists through quality programming, and the combination of both classical and contemporary works. 

After 59 years of offering fellowships and musical training, the ensemble will close permanently from March 15, 2024, due to financial challenges and the inability to sustain operations, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its final concert was held at the New Roads School on February 25, 2024. 

Open to the public, AYS concerts were presented for free or at low cost at venues such as Royce Hall and the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Much of AYS’s success is also attributed to Alexander Treger, who was its music director for 17 years from 1998 to 2015. 

The orchestra’s recent highlights include the 2019 world premiere of Fil Eisler’s new violin concerto with Sarah Chang as the soloist. This concert was part of the inaugural AYS Korngold Commission Project, which aimed to unite film composers with renowned soloists to create and premiere new works. 

In 2020, AYS commissioned and gave the world premiere of Kris Bowers’ new violin concerto, For A Younger Self. Performed by VC Artist Charles Yang, the concerto is also part of an album due for release on Orchid Classics in July 2024. 

“Despite our best efforts, the challenges of maintaining our operations have become insurmountable,” said AYS’s board chair Kevin Dretzka in the press release. “COVID-19 amplified AYS’s unsustainable financial infrastructure. We have exhausted every effort and hope the larger orchestral industry and classical music philanthropic community take note to shore-up these important pre-professional orchestras like AYS which directly benefit them.” 

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the closure of our beloved organization. The Board of Directors has made the difficult decision to dissolve American Youth Symphony,” added AYS’s executive director Isabel Thiroux. “We extend our deepest gratitude to our talented artists, dedicated staff, supportive patrons, and generous donors who have been instrumental in our journey. While this chapter may be closing, we are proud of the legacy we leave behind and the impact we have made in the lives of many.” 

“It is extremely regrettable that an organization of the caliber and history of AYS has to shut down,” said Carlos Izcaray, AYS’s music director since 2015. “I am proud of the work that the staff did under incredible pressure, and will remain in awe of the progress our fellows showed throughout the last years. Many of them joined some of the best orchestras in the country, and several others became top studio musicians, composers, administrators, and entrepreneurs in the field. Unfortunately we were not able to secure the funding to pivot to a more sustainable model.

“Many memories from our programs and projects will remain … and many other creative endeavors with our fellows as soloists and involved co-creators,” he continued. “I remain inspired by all of them, and look forward to learning how their careers evolve.”

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