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The YOPW students can build their appreciation for music while pursuing their passion.

Youth Orchestras of Prince William

By Kim Howard, CAE | Photos by Mark Gilvey

The YOPW students can build their appreciation for music while pursuing their passion.

English conductor and impresario Sir Thomas Beecham, known for his association with the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic orchestras, once said, “There are two golden rules for an orchestra: start together and finish together. The public doesn’t give a damn about what goes on in
between.” Patrons can be assured that the Youth Orchestras of Prince William care very much about what goes on in between as well. These young, talented musicians have the opportunity to hone their skills through the Youth Orchestras of Prince William (YOPW). The mission of the YOPW is to promote quality music education, provide a range of performance opportunities, foster musical awareness and appreciation, and produce cultural experiences for youth throughout the Prince William region.

“The Youth Orchestras of Prince William is an amazing music program for the young people in our community,” said Amy Nickerson, YOPW vice president. “Children 6-18 may participate, build their appreciation for music, and pursue their passion.”

Children ages 6-18 may join the YOPW.

Thriving Together through Music
The Youth Orchestras of Prince William began as a single orchestra founded in 1981 by the Woodbridge Music Club. In 1984, YOPW became an independent organization and inaugurated its second ensemble, the Concert Orchestra. The Primo and Repertory Orchestras were added in 1988 to provide opportunities for younger string students. In 2001, the program expanded to include the Preparatory Orchestra for introductory string players, and in 2003 the sixth ensemble—the Wind Symphony—was created to provide enrichment for middle school-aged wind, brass and percussion players.

“YOPW not only keeps children busy and out of trouble, but it gives them a chance to thrive in a diverse and supportive environment, which is brought together through music,” said Nickerson. “I was once a member of YOPW, and some of my favorite childhood memories came from rehearsing and performing with friends. I made lasting friendships and connections through music.”

Claudia Morales, executive director, said that although parents pay tuition, the YOPW is also supported through grants and private donations. “We will never turn anyone away for financial constraints,” she said. “We will work with families, regardless of what their financial situation is.”

Musicians for Hire
You can also hire these musicians for your events. Chamber ensembles can be booked by calling or emailing the office. YOPW charges a $125 booking fee for each event and $50/hour/musician. There may also be a travel fee for events located outside of their usual service area. Usually, a one-hour event for a
string quartet at a local venue costs $325.

Rehearsals are usually held in county high schools on Monday nights. Here are the orchestras that are available to young musicians.

  • Introduction to Preparatory: entry-level strings orchestra for string players with little to no experience. Auditions are not required.
  • Preparatory Orchestra: entry-level strings orchestra for string players with new ability. Auditions are not required.
  • Primo Orchestra: Student musicians in this program have usually played for 1-2 years and developed basic skills.
  • Cadet Percussion Ensemble: This is for intermediate-level percussionists.
  • Repertory Orchestra: This orchestra is for the intermediate string player. Members of this ensemble typically have been playing for 2-3 years and are working on at least Grade 3 music literature.
  • Concert Orchestra: This is a full orchestra with strings, winds and percussion in which members are comfortable performing Grade 4-5 music literature.
  • Percussion Ensemble: This allows percussion players to prepare percussion literature and perform at several YOPW concerts. All YOPW percussionists are members of this group in addition to performing with other major ensembles.
  • Youth Symphony Orchestra: This full symphonic orchestra accepts the most advanced string, wind and percussion players to perform standard orchestral literature.

Whether you were a budding musician, play an instrument regularly into adulthood, or just have a love for music, you’ll find there are several ways to support the YOPW. Individuals or organizations can make a donation, buy a program ad, volunteer, sponsor-a-child, become a corporate sponsor or use Amazon
Smile when you order from the online retailer.

Spring auditions will be held this month. For more information on the Youth Orchestras of Prince William, go to

Kim Howard, CAE ([email protected]) is the editor in chief of Prince William Living and played the clarinet in junior high and high school and the guitar with the youth choir at church.

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