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The Orange County Youth Symphony Orchestra (OCYSO), now in its 48th season, is the official youth orchestra of Orange County, CA. Deemed “the real thing” by The Los Angeles Times, OCYSO is the winner of the 2012 American Prize in Orchestral Performance—Youth Orchestra Division. Music Director & Conductor Daniel Alfred Wachs has led OCYSO through many prestigious performances including US and West Coast premieres by composers such as Mark-Anthony Turnage and Kurt Schwertsik, European tours and a season-long project with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 culminating in a documentary entitled “Beethoven’s Ninth: Journey to Joy” that was selected by PBS SoCal for multiple broadcasts. OCYSO’s mission, to introduce music into the lives of young people, is fulfilled in part through its acclaimed “Concerts for Fifth Graders,” in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, conducted and developed by Wachs. This series, “kids playing for kids,” presented by the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, has provided music education for more than a million students over twenty-five years. Additionally, OCYSO presents a concert series in the new $82 million Musco Center for the Arts.

Highlights of the 2016-17 Season included renowned violinists Ray Chen, Midori, and a mini-residency by the Kronos Quartet. Presented by the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, OCYSO returned for its second annual holiday family concert and it’s acclaimed Concerts for Fifth Graders at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

The 2015-16 Season included a season-long collaboration with the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra (YMF Debut) of Los Angeles. This collaborative concert with YMF, presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic on its prestigious Sounds About Town series at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, featured the United States premiere of Mark Anthony Turnage’s Passchendaele, an OCYSO co-commission. Of the performance which was reviewed by Musical America, the Los Angeles Times, and the Orange County Register, music critic Timothy Mangan stated: “Wachs led a wonderfully clear and patient traversal, finding order in complexity. The young musicians appeared to have little trouble with the work’s progressive language.”

OCYSO’s 2013-2014 season was presented in conjunction with the Philharmonic Society of Orange County’s Beethoven: The Late Great series and culminated in a critically-acclaimed, sold-out season finale concert presenting the West Coast premiere of Mark Anthony Turnage’s “Frieze” and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The Orange County Register selected this concert as one of the “Must See” performances of the season and The Los Angeles Times picked it as a top concert choice for Spring 2014.

During its distinguished history, OCYSO has performed at major music conferences throughout the United States and was featured at the 2013 TEDx held at Chapman University. OCYSO  presented a capstone performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall as part of the inaugural West Coast Youth Orchestra Festival. In the summer of 2013, OCYSO toured the United Kingdom and attended the famed Proms Concerts as guests of the Royal Philharmonic Society. A review of OCYSO’s performance at Bristol Cathedral stated that “The young players gave an excellent performance and earned the tremendous ovation they received…Charismatic director Daniel Alfred Wachs was excellent throughout.” OCYSO’s performances have been lauded by both critics and audiences throughout Austria, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Hong Kong, the People’s Republic of China, Japan and at the United Nations and Carnegie Hall. In the Summer of 2016, OCYSO traveled to Spain with performances in Madrid, Barcelona, and Manresa.

In celebration of its 40th anniversary in 2009-10, OCYSO performed a joint concert with the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg, presenting the United States premiere of Kurt Schwertsik’s Mr. K Discovers America. In his review for The Los Angeles Times, Mark Swed wrote “The performance was smashing thanks in no small part to the exceptionally well-practiced pre-professionals, who brought a sparkle to the Salzburgers’ sound that wasn’t there before…They are the real thing.”



I am reminded daily of the importance of teachers, mentors, family and friends in the formation of tomorrow’s musician. Looking back I could not have been more fortunate in my life: under the leadership of John Koshak, and now Daniel Alfred Wachs, OCYSO is a place where young musicians can come together and experience first-hand what it is like to be a part of the most powerful and expressive art form I know.  My experience with OCYSO encouraged me to dream of a life in music – and that is the greatest gift you can ever give to a young musician. Thank you, OCYSO, for that dream.

Emil de Cou
Associate Conductor
National Symphony Orchestra
NSO @ Wolf Trap Conductor

Here in Southern California, we’ve been blessed with vital youth orchestras for many years, including… the OCYSO. These groups are more important than ever today. With the decline of music education in schools, they offer the only outlet many students have of performing in an orchestra. Hearing a youth orchestra play, then, is almost always a touching experience. There’s an extra-musical element to it. A bunch of kids playing Brahms – wow, how about that? Maybe things aren’t so bad.

May 5, 2008, Timothy Mangan, Orange County Register