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Historical Note

The mission of the Youth Orchestras of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance is to inspire an overall cultural awareness and appreciation of music in its members and audiences, strengthen our region’s existing school music programs, and help stimulate interest in the development of school orchestral programs where none exist. Our Youth Orchestras have a rich history of providing an orchestral experience for talented young musicians from the Greater Dayton area. In fact, the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (DPYO) is the third oldest youth orchestra program in the nation.

It all started with a man with a vision 85 years ago . . .

This man was Dr. Paul Katz, the founder and first conductor of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra (DPO). He established the DPYO, initially named the Dayton Philharmonic Training Orchestra, in 1937, four years after founding the DPO. Dr. Katz believed passionately in the importance and benefits of classical music for children, so, beginning with an ensemble of twenty-six young musicians he created this opportunity that continues to thrive today.

There were dedicated conductors who followed Dr. Katz’s lead. Ms. Marjorie Kline directed from 1939–1967. Mr. Jaroslav “Jerry” Holesovsky took up the baton 1967–1976, renaming the Training Orchestra the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra in 1968. Mr. Kenneth Miller led from 1976–1978. The next conductor was Dr. William Steinorht from 1978–1995. In 1988, under Dr. Steinohrt’s direction, the DPYO celebrated its 50th anniversary, performing at Carnegie Hall. Peter Ciaschini succeeded Dr. Steinohrt for the next four years. Dr. Patrick Reynolds, the DPYO’s current conductor, picked up the baton in 2000 and is now in his twenty-third season with the orchestra.

The DPYO had already built a reputation for delivering outstanding classical performances, but beginning in the 1960s the orchestra also began performing family-friendly annual “Kinder Concerts”, later known as our Family Series concerts. In the early years, nationally known performers on these concerts were guests such as Mickey Mouse (1972) and Sesame Street’s Bob McGrath (1977 and 1981), as well as local talent, the Dayton Ballet, the Gem City Ballet, and South Dayton Ballet. More recently on the Family Series, the DPYO has collaborated with Zoot Theatre, performance artist Dan Kamin, illustrator Rob Shepperson, Platypus Theatre, Cirque de la Symphonie, Dandi Productions and the Magic Circle Mime Company, among others. Further expanding our experiences, in 2008 a chamber orchestra from the DPYO performed in a production of Hans Krása’s opera “Brundibar” in a collaboration between the DPYO, the Dayton Opera, the Kettering Children’s Choir, and the Victoria Theatre Association. Commemorating the golden anniversary of Dayton’s sister city Augsburg, Germany, the DPYO hosted its counterpart, the Symphony Orchestra of St. Stephan’s Augsburg in July 2014. In addition, the DPYO has been honored by invitations to perform at the state professional conference of the Ohio Music Education Association in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2014, and 2023. Today, the DPYO comprises over eighty instrumentalists from twenty-four high schools. Through its distinguished 85-year history, the DPYO has provided a rich musical experience for over 7500 young musicians.

The DPYO is supported by the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, the Association of Parents and Friends of the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, and the Dayton Philharmonic Volunteer Association. The DPYO is affiliated with the Youth Division of the League of American Orchestras.

Established in September 1982 with the support of Mrs. Virginia Kettering, the purpose of Dayton Philharmonic Youth Strings is to provide an advanced musical experience for young string students. Youth Strings presently comprises 47 musicians from 37 different schools. Members of DPYS are selected through annual auditions open to all string musicians in grades 6 through 12. Begun in the fall of 2014, the Dayton Philharmonic Junior Strings was created in response to requests from string teachers and music educators for an orchestra to encourage young string musicians and prepare them for Dayton Philharmonic Youth Strings. Junior Strings presently has 39 students from 24 different schools and homeschools. Members of Dayton Philharmonic Junior Strings are selected through annual auditions open to all string students in grades 5–8. Both the DPYS and the DPJS are sponsored by the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance.

Historical notes by Toni Brenner