Over 350 student musicians from throughout 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 and present several concerts per year at venues throughout the area.

Under the direction and guidance of many supportive music educators for more than 45 years, BYOV has developed into one of the largest youth orchestra programs in the country. Offering six levels of ensemble training, Bay Youth 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.

Bay Youth Junior String Orchestra (BYJST)

The Junior String Orchestra is for young musicians in grades three through eight who are beginning note readers but can demonstrate a good foundation in playing technique. The emphasis in rehearsal will be establishing good rehearsal discipline, rhythmic and note reading skills as well as understanding harmony in ensemble music. This group performs twice during the year to develop poise and performance skills, and also performs in outreach concerts in the community. The age limit for this ensemble is rising 7th grade.

Bay Youth Concert Orchestra (BYCO)

The Concert Orchestra is composed of students, generally between the eighth and eleventh grades, who have demonstrated an advanced level of playing on their instrument. This group studies and performs master works for symphony and chamber orchestra. The emphasis is on training: acquisition of advanced technical and musical skills, rehearsal discipline and advanced ensemble playing. Coaches from the Virginia Symphony as well as local music educators give sectional rehearsals to provide additional detailed instruction.  They perform in up to four concert programs throughout the season and are eligible to participate in the BYOV Concerto Competition as well as touring internationally.

Bay Youth String Orchestra (BYST)

The String Orchestra is composed of students who have progressed to the intermediate level of performance on their instrument, having mastered the basic skills level (generally after two or three years of instruction). This group studies string arrangements of the chamber and symphonic literature, developing ensemble in a disciplined rehearsal atmosphere. Sight-reading as well as performance skills development are emphasized. Public performances, at least three per season, give students the opportunity to demonstrate their progress. This orchestra takes regular trips every two to three years to colleges for exposure and to work with college music professors. The age limit for this ensemble is rising 9th grade.

The Bay Youth Concert Band (BYCB)

This ensemble (formerly Bay Youth Wind Ensemble) explores standard band literature for the middle school band student, with emphasis on improving ensemble skills, tone quality, technique, and musicianship needed to prepare for advanced ensemble programs. The Concert Band is for beginning to intermediate middle school students in grades 7-9, performing in up to three public performances throughout the season. This ensemble also takes regular trips every two to three years to participate in band festivals.

Bay Youth Symphony Orchestra (BYSO)

The Symphony Orchestra is for serious student musicians who have demonstrated a proficiency on their instrument that will enable them to meet the challenges of performing some of the world’s greatest and most challenging instrumental music. Students performing at this level are expected to have a seriousness of purpose and demonstrate not only preparedness for rehearsals, but professional rehearsal behavior.

The symphony will perform four to five programs throughout the season. Two unique concerts performed each year are the annual Concerto Concert, and the Side-by-Side Virginia Symphony program. Concerto soloists are chosen from an audition held each December. Finalists perform with the orchestra, allowing the orchestra to develop accompanying skills which require a high level of musicianship. The Side-by-Side concert is an opportunity to rehearse and perform alongside the professional musicians from the Virginia Symphony, under the direction of the Virginia Symphony’s Associate Conductor. Members of BYSO are eligible to tour internationally with BYOV. 

Bay Youth Wind Symphony (BYWS)

The Wind Symphony is for serious high school band students who have demonstrated a proficiency on their instrument. Students performing at this level are expected to have a seriousness of purpose and demonstrate not only preparedness for rehearsals, but professional rehearsal behavior. This ensemble performs fully scored works for wind symphony on two performances during the season. This group begins rehearsals in late-November/early-December to accommodate the high school marching band season. Students in grades 9-12 may audition for this ensemble.

The Wind Symphony performs two concerts during the season. Members of BYWS are eligible to tour internationally with BYOV.