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Musical Excellence Since 1956


Since 1956 Civic Youth Orchestra has enriched the lives of young musicians from throughout Southern California. Our stair-step program is offered to ages 5 to 22, from aspiring musicians who are beginning their musical experience to the most advanced, complementing their passion for music with professional training from Civic Youth Orchestra.


As schools continue to struggle with budgetary constraints, CYO is proud to continue to offer musical opportunities thanks to the continued support from families, local businesses and volunteers.


CYO's young musicians learn and benefit from the professional staff and educators of the Civic Youth Orchestra, and perform in first-class venues throughout San Diego County.


Civic Youth Orchestra offers a variety of programs beyond the Saturday morning training ensembles, including Disney Performing Arts Workshops, summer workshops on college campuses, musical retreats, international touring, professional concerts and much more.


Community support of the Civic Youth Orchestra (a 501c3 non-profit organization) assists the progression of musical education within our San Diego County community.

Our Mission

The Civic Youth Orchestra makes the enriching experience of performing music using symphonic musical instruments available to children of any race, religion or ethnic origin, without regard to economic circumstances, in an environment that is positive and nurturing.

The Civic Youth Orchestra provides performance opportunities to children throughout the community, in a variety of locations, involving various skill levels, enriching the overall educational experience with a stimulating performance preparation program that occurs outside of the school day.

The Civic Youth Orchestra creates opportunities for young people to demonstrate their musical proficiency for receptive audiences and competition adjudicators, both at home and outside the community, instilling pride and receiving recognition, as well as promoting the image of Southern California as a place of culture, unusual achievement and excellence.​

Stepping Stone Concept

The Civic Youth Orchestra sees the sequence of Enembles as progressive and expects students to advance from one level to the next. Accordingly, each child and component is valued equally. Each ensemble studies and performs music suitable to its level. Auditions for initial admission and move to advanced ensembles are held several times during the year. As students progress, the music staff works to ensure that each child is provided with a challenging and satisfying ensemble experience. The ensemble conductor determines placement and seating in their ensemble.


Audition requirements for each instrument and each ensemble are posted under AUDITIONS.

Initial Placement

Initial placement in an ensemble will be decided based on the student's capabilities. Usually, students have studied privately for two years before auditioning for a CYO ensemble. As a member of CYO you are required to have a private teacher in your primary instrument. CYO requires students are enrolled in a school music ensemble, if available, and believes that students benefit from the variety provided by diverse ensemble instructors. Students receive excellent instruction from school band and orchestra directors and participation in the school music program is augmented by the CYO experience

You can learn more about each ensemble on our REHEARSALS page.

Timeline History

2018: The Symphony Orchestra performs in concert with CYO alumna and Grammy-nominated cellist Tina Guo at the

           California Center for the Arts, Escondido.

2017: The Civic Youth Orchestra celebrates its 60th Anniversary honoring Daniel Lewis.

2016: The Symphony returns to the Walt Disney Concert Hall for the second time for the West Coast Youth Orchestra

           Festival; this time performing as the "anchor orchestra."   

2015: The Symphony is invited to perform in the Walt Disney Concert Hall as part of the West Coast Youth Orchestra


2015: The Civic Youth Orchestra returns to an academic setting for their Saturday rehearsals at Classical Academy High

           School in Escondido.

2014: CYO becomes an endorsed program of the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, and through a generous

           donation to their foundation from Jean and Bob Will, three concerts are sponsored for the 2014-2015 season.

2011: Fallbrook Bob Burton Theater performances of Nutcracker is added to our pit orchestra resume. It becomes an

           annual event.

2010: The Civic Youth Orchestra relocates to a new rehearsal site at the North County Church of Christ in Escondido.

2009: The Civic Youth Orchestra relocates from Palomar College to the San Marcos Senior Center.

2008: The Symphony travels to Australia and New Zealand, performing in Cairns, Sydney, Auckland and Rotorua.

2006: The Symphony travels to Europe, performing in Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg and  Moscow. A pit orchestra is

           formed and begins performing Nutcracker annually at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.

2005: All ensembles are consolidated at Palomar College and "San Diego" is dropped from our name since we attract

           musicians throughout a wide area, from San Diego to Riverside. We are now known as the Civic Youth Orchestra.

           The Primary and Intermediate Strings are featured in a performance at Disneyland.

2004: The Symphony tours Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Austria.

2002: An East Area ensemble rehearses and performs at Grossmont College for two seasons. A summer tour takes the

           Symphony to Italy, France and Spain.

2001: An after-school strings education program is started at Gompers Secondary School and Our Lady’s School in San

           Diego and runs for five seasons.

2000: The Symphony embarks on the Millennium Tour to the Czech Republic, Germany and France.

1998: The Symphony travels on a summer tour to Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Italy.

1997:  The Intermediate Strings Chamber Orchestra performs in London in June.

1996: The Symphony performs in a South Pacific Tour, traveling to Australia and New Zealand.​

1986: A North Area ensemble is established, meeting for rehearsals at Palomar College. The music program eventually

           expands to three string ensembles and later, a wind ensemble is added.

1961: A training orchestra is begun and the organization establishes a series of "Stepping Stone" groups, including

           chamber and wind ensembles.

1956: The San Diego Civic Youth Orchestra is founded to create a symphony for the more advanced musicians from all

           over San Diego County - initially affiliated with Mesa College, and then San Diego State University's Community

           Music School. 



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