Birth of the Youth Orchestra- History of the Sagebrush Symphony

I’ve conducted a lot of youth orchestras in my career, and being a member of a youth orchestra was, to say the least, a turning point in my life. Youth orchestras are not just wonderful musical organizations, but serve a profound social function, transforming the lives of tens of thousands of young people all over the world.

So where did the youth orchestra movement begin? In New York? Vienna? London?

Nope- the youth orchestra movement began in a cow town in one of the most rural corners of Eastern Oregon. The Sagebrush Symphony in Burns, a town then unreachable by road or rail, served only by stage, was the first youth orchestra in the USA. Oregon Public Broadcasting have just shown a fascinating documentary on the birth of the youth orchestra in this unlikely place. A must see.  You can see the film, order a DVD or read about the Sagebrush Symphony here.

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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