About Us

Over 350 student musicians from all over Hampton Roads create six performing ensembles to present concerts throughout the Tidewater area. Students from as far away as Williamsburg, Yorktown, and North Carolina, and as close as Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Hampton, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Norfolk attend weekly rehearsals on Monday and Tuesday evenings.

Under the direction and guidance of many supportive music educators over the past 45 years, Bay Youth Orchestras has developed into one of the largest youth orchestra programs in the country. Offering six levels of ensemble training, BYOV gives student musicians the opportunity to learn and perform the world’s greatest orchestral literature.

Bay Youth Orchestras of Virginia is a 501C(3) non-profit organization and receives funding from the Business Consortium for Arts Support of South Hampton Roads, the City of Chesapeake Fine Arts Commission, the City of Norfolk Arts and Humanities Commission, the City of Virginia Beach Arts and Humanities Commission, The Virginia Commission for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Our Mission

The mission of Bay Youth Orchestras of Virginia is to provide the highest level of symphonic ensemble training and performance opportunities to the young musicians of Hampton Roads.

Our History

Bay Youth Orchestras of Virginia celebrates nearly 50 years of orchestral training. Our history began with the founding of Tidewater Youth Orchestras, in 1972, by four community leaders: Russell Stanger, former director of the Norfolk Symphony (now the Virginia Symphony Orchestra), local businessman Meier “Easy” Birshtein, and two Symphony musicians who were also public school teachers, Greg Barnes and Linda Althoff. They auditioned over 200 high school musicians at Northside Junior High School.  C. Sidney Berg, Symphony percussionist and Supervisor of Music for Norfolk Public Schools, was chosen to be the first conductor. In 1991, Tidewater Youth Orchestras became Bay Youth Orchestras of Virginia.

BYOV has grown to include six ensembles, accommodating students from the elementary grades to junior college. We have rehearsed over the years at Norfolk State University, and at public schools in Norfolk and Chesapeake. In August 2006, a group from Bay Youth toured internationally for the first time, performing in London and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. The Bay Youth Symphony presented a concert as part of the Jamestown 400th Anniversary Celebration in May, 2007. In June 2009, a tour group from BYOV visited Austria, and had the honor of performing at the Konzerthaus of the Vienna Philharmonic, as part of the Haydn 200-Year Celebration. In the summers of 2010-2013, BYOV held a one-week summer camp, [email protected] the Academy, in partnership with Norfolk Academy and The Virginia Symphony. In June of 2015, Bay Youth Orchestras sent a small chamber orchestra on tour to Germany and the Czech Republic and in 2018 we toured Ireland.

Many fine musicians and educators have worked with BYOV, including Jorge Aguirre, Beth Argiro, Vince Brown, Peter Dundon, Dean Englert (Wind Symphony), Martin Glasco, Michael Hodgis, Dr. William LaRue Jones, Judy Meister, Walter Noona, Todd Parrish, Doug Earlenbaugh, Aaron Hardwick, and Grant Gilman.  In 1997, co-founder Greg Barnes retired after many years as the organization’s Music Director and Symphony Conductor.  He was succeeded in these posts by Leslie Stewart (1998), Jean Montes (2006), and Helen Martell (2007). In 2006, Greg Barnes returned to help lead Bay Youth’s first international tour. Co-founder Linda Althoff, who also served as a BYOV conductor for many years, is still a member of the Bay Youth Advisory Board.  In 2012, Bay Youth celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a new commission: “Symphony for Youth Orchestra: Rivers of the Chesapeake” by Alumnus James Hosay. In 2013, BYOV collaborated with the Virginia Children’s Chorus to present a new version of Adolphus Hailstork’s The Gift of the Magi. The year 2022 will mark BYOV’s 50th Birthday!