Ensembles – Portland

Instruction in Orchestra, Band & Jazz

MYS offers 13 ensembles for students ages 6 – 18. Students need only one year of experience on an instrument to audition and may play in as many ensembles for which they qualify at no extra cost. Following an audition, students are placed in the most advanced ensemble the conductors feel will be a good fit, where students are challenged musically but can succeed and have fun. Ensembles are listed in order of entry-level to advanced. Click the titles and read below for descriptions of our orchestra, band, percussion, and jazz ensembles. Please note that MYS owns some instruments that may be available for loan, but serious students should consider purchasing their own.

MYS also has string ensembles in Hillsboro! Click here for more information about these groups.

Portland Overture Strings

Entry Level Strings

Conductor: Marian Gutiérrez

This strings-only ensemble is for players who have at least one year of experience with their instruments. Prior ensemble experience is not required, but players are expected to have basic music-reading skills and to know how to play in keys up to two sharps. Musicians in Overture will work on advancing their technical and musical knowledge, and be introduced to concepts such as following a conductor, music theory and how to listen and play. Teamwork is emphasized in a supportive environment.

Specific Skills Required:

  • Level equivalent to end of Suzuki Book 1 to Book 2
  • Facility throughout first position
  • Knowledge of flats and sharps: low 1st finger, low/high 2nd, 3rd or 4th finger

Interlude Orchestra

Entry Level Orchestra

Conductor: MYS Music Director, Raúl Gómez-Rojas

Musicians in this full orchestra (strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion) will be reading music in the keys up to three sharps. They should play with a nice tone, accurate intonation and have good rhythm skills. Musicians should be able to respond to changes in dynamics, tempo and meter. Rhythms will include triplets, 16th notes, and dotted rhythms. Interlude performs three concerts a year and takes a day tour in the spring.

Specific Skills Required:

  • Level equivalent to Suzuki Books 2 – 3
  • Developing vibrato for all string players; slurred & staccato bowing styles
  • Violins & violas: facility in third position
  • Cellos: Knowledge of extensions & 4th position
  • Winds & percussion: level similar to Concert Band
  • Private lessons recommended


Baroque Strings

Early / Intermediate Strings

Conductor: Elizabeth Peyton

Students in this strings-only group will continue to refine ensemble skills learned in Interlude Orchestra. Focus will be on developing technical and musical skills specific to playing string instruments in ensemble settings, such as unifying articulation, various bow strokes, rhythmic precision, and aspects of tone production. Repertoire includes (but is not limited to) music composed during the Baroque and Classical eras (17th-18th century).

Specific Skills Required:

  • Most or all of major and minor (melodic and harmonic) scales in at least two octaves.
  • Level equivalent to Suzuki Books 3 – 4
  • Good vibrato and tone production
  • Off-the-string bowing (spiccato)
  • Violins & violas: facility up to 5th position
  • Cellos: Knowledge of extensions & 5th position
  • Private Lessons Recommended

Sinfonietta Orchestra

Intermediate Orchestra

Conductor: Giancarlo Castro d’Addona

This full orchestra introduces young musicians to fun and challenging music at a very crucial moment in their artistic development. In addition to symphonic repertoire, selections include music from films, video games, Broadway shows and more, which will be attractive to students from both orchestral and band backgrounds. Students in this orchestra will polish their ensemble playing abilities, including rhythmic accuracy, tone production, balance, dynamics, blend, and most importantly: listening! Strings must perform between Baroque and Vivaldi Strings level. Woodwinds and brass must perform at or above Concert Band level. Private lessons are highly recommended.

Specific skills required:

  • Strings: Most or all of major and minor (melodic and harmonic) scales in at least two octaves.
  • Level equivalent to Suzuki Books 4-5, fully developed vibrato for all strings players, slurred, spiccato & staccato bowing styles.
  • Violins & violas: facility up to 5th position
  • Cellos: Knowledge of extensions & 5th position
  • Bassoonists must be able to read and play in tenor clef
  • Clarinetists should have basic transposition skills
  • Trumpet and horn players should have basic transposition skills
  • Private lessons recommended

Vivaldi Strings

High / Intermediate Strings

Conductor: Paloma Griffin Hébert

Vivaldi is a strings-only, high-intermediate chamber orchestra that plays a wide variety of music, from baroque to contemporary. Players are expected to have strong skills in sight-reading, intonation and rhythm. Vivaldi Strings performs three concerts a year plus additional outreach performances. Private lessons are highly recommended.

Specific Skills Required:

  • Level equivalent to Suzuki Books 6 – 7
  • Fully developed vibrato for all strings players, slurred & staccato bowing styles.
  • Violins & violas: facility up to 7th position
  • Cellos: Knowledge of extensions & beyond 5th position

Concert Orchestra

Intermediate / Advanced Orchestra

Conductor: Jeffrey Peyton

This full orchestra performs challenging unabridged pieces from the standard orchestral repertoire. All Concert Orchestra members must show a high proficiency in their playing and be able to demonstrate the full range of abilities for their instrument. Appropriate instruments should be comfortable transposing and playing in multiple clefs (see below). Woodwinds and brass must perform at Symphonic Band level. Concert Orchestra performs three concerts a year plus an outreach concert. Private lessons are highly recommended.

Specific skills for joining Concert Orchestra:

  • Concert Orchestra players must take private lessons
  • Level equivalent to Suzuki Books 7-8; early concerto repertoire (violins: Viotti, Accolay, Mendelssohn)
  • STRINGS: Facility in all positions and bowing techniques
  • Cellists must be able to read and play fluently in tenor and treble clef
  • Violists should have facility in treble clef
  • Bassoonists must be able to read and play in tenor clef
  • Clarinetists should have transposition skills
  • Trumpet and horn players should have transposition skills

Symphony Orchestra

Advanced Orchestra

Conductor: MYS Music Director, Raúl Gómez-Rojas

The Symphony Orchestra is reserved for HIGHLY advanced players who exhibit sophisticated musical and technical abilities. This ensemble requires a high level of self-discipline and private lessons are required. The Symphony performs masterpieces from the standard orchestral repertoire, great choral works, music by living and underrepresented composers and presents four concerts each season in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall or Newmark Theater, plus additional mini-tours and international tours.

Symphony Players must have all skills required for lower groups, AND

  • Violists must be able to fluently read and play in treble clef.
  • Cellists must be able to fluently read and play in tenor AND treble clefs.
  • Bassoonists & trombonists must be able to read and play in tenor clef.
  • French horn, trumpet & clarinet players must have excellent transposing skills.
  • Flute players may be asked to play piccolo.
  • Clarinet players should have access to an A Clarinet, and may be asked to play bass clarinet and E-flat clarinet.
  • Oboe players may be asked to play English Horn.

MYSfits

Advanced String Ensemble

Director: Kenji Bunch

MYSfits is a self-conducted ensemble made up of string players from Symphony Orchestra. Under the direction of composer and multi-instrumentalist Kenji Bunch, this group explores music beyond what has been traditionally considered “classical,” from fiddle to funk and everything in between.

Mr. Bunch explains: “Though we often think of classical music as exclusive, the very nature of this tradition is to constantly evolve and absorb new ideas and influences. With MYSfits, I use my experiences as a multi-style musician to help widen our tent and make room for approaches to string playing and music-making previously considered ‘non-classical.’ Through this work, we have the potential to become true musical omnivores and help recalibrate expectations for what the next generation of string players could- or should- be capable of in the 21st century.”

MYSfits members excel in their leadership and community service. In addition to three concert performances each season, the group performs outreach concerts for school children, at benefit concerts and special events. The ensemble often works with world-class guest teaching artists who help coach the group in rehearsals. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma famously heard MYSfits playing in the lobby of the Arlene Schnitzer Hall and decided to sit in to play with them! MYSfits were then invited to join him on-stage to hear his solo recital. MYSfits members are selected based on Symphony Orchestra seating auditions.


Concert Band

Early / Intermediate Band

Conductor: Richard Littledyke

Concert Band allows young woodwind, brass and percussion players to grow their musicianship in a supportive environment. Members have a fundamental knowledge of music and are expected to know chromatic scales and major and minor scales up to 3 sharps and flats in two octaves. They will also need to be comfortable in all meters including duple and triple meters. Concert Band challenges students to go beyond their expectation in preparation for MYS advanced orchestras and bands. Concert Band plays three concerts each year plus an outreach performance.


Symphonic Band

Intermediate / Advanced Band

Conductor: Alex Christy

Symphonic Band allows woodwind, brass and percussion students to play challenging and engaging repertoire that will bring their technique, musicality and ensemble skills to the next level. Private lessons are highly encouraged. Symphonic Band players that meet the requirements and wish to enhance their musical training with an orchestral experience are also eligible to play with MYS Sinfonietta and Concert Orchestras. Symphonic Band performs three concerts each year plus an outreach performance.


Flute Ensemble

Advanced Level

Director: Adam Eccleston

The MYS Flute Ensemble allows advanced students to explore fun repertoire and maximize instrument-specific coaching. The format of this group helps young musicians improve their chamber music skills and, for interested students, proficiency in auxiliary instruments such as piccolo and alto flute.


MYSticks Percussion Ensemble

Advanced Level

Director: Michael Roberts

MYSticks is an advanced percussion ensemble for MYS students in Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Band. Under the leadership of Oregon Symphony percussionist Michael Roberts, MYSticks explore the vast repertoire for percussion ensemble, with an emphasis on fun, challenging and engaging music by living composers. MYSticks allows our percussion students to have a very important outlet for making music front-and-center, in addition to orchestral and band repertoire. Students will also work with guest professional percussionists from Portland and beyond.


Percussion Studio

All Levels

Director: Michael Roberts

The Percussion Studio is offered to percussion students across all MYS orchestras and bands.  This class will include technique for different orchestral percussion instruments, care and maintenance of instruments, orchestral excerpts, orchestral and band etiquette and any other relevant topics. Michael Roberts from the Oregon Symphony will lead the Percussion Studio, with frequent appearances by guest professional percussionists from Portland and beyond.


Jazz Program

MYS is one of the few youth orchestras in the country offering a jazz program.  MYS jazz groups are big bands or combos that play in competitions, festivals and at clubs around Portland, in addition to appearing on the MYS concert series.

Jazz Ensemble

Conductor: Ryan Meagher 

Advanced Level

Jazz Band

Intermediate Level