Youth Programs

Youth Orchestras

The Mission of the San Juan Symphony Youth Orchestras (SJSYO) is to provide an inspiring orchestral experience for the youth of Durango, Bayfield, Farmington, Pagosa Springs, Cortez and surrounding areas, while further enriching the arts communities of the Four Corners. SJSYO is the only youth symphony organization in the Four Corners area, and its members receive an exceptional educational experience under the guidance of the region’s finest musical performers and educators. SJSYO maintains a strong connection with the area’s school music programs, Fort Lewis College, and cultural institutions such as 3rd Ave. Arts and Music in the Mountains. SJSYO is open to all Four Corners area elementary school, middle school, high school, home-school, and Fort Lewis College students on an audition basis.


Welcome to our 2019-20 Youth Orchestra Season!

Taking advantage of our recent transition between music directors, the San Juan Symphony has designed a new format for its Youth Orchestra Programs. Whereas previously there had been three tiers of ensembles, now the program will offer two tiers: the advanced Youth Orchestra (YO), which will be a full orchestra performing symphonic repertoire and awarding solo concerto opportunities to its members by audition; and the Junior String Orchestra (JSO), which will be designed as an intermediate ensemble focused on musicianship and preparatory training for the advanced level. Our new Director will direct the YO, and the JSO will remain under the baton of Molly Jensen, San Juan Symphony violinist and Director of Orchestras at Miller Middle School and Durango High School.

Both of these ensembles will now meet at Fort Lewis College on Tuesday evenings at new times:

JSO – 5:30 to 7 pm
YO – 6:30 to 8:30 pm

Tuition: Our tuition has increased slightly to $200/year and should be paid once annually (preferably at the Mandatory Parent Meeting on September 3rd). Tuition Assistance will still be available, as needed. Parents requesting this will now be required to fill out a form and provide documentation. Families with multiple siblings pay $175 after the first child.

SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT AUDITIONS: Students previously enrolled in either the Junior Orchestra or the Youth Philharmonic last season will be automatically enrolled in the new Junior String Orchestra (JSO). In other words, students from last year will be “grandfathered in” to the program as part of the JSO without having to re-audition. Students who would like to move up to the advanced Youth Orchestra (YO) are invited to take that audition on August 27th (*see audition info below.)

Updated Audition Requirements:

Youth Orchestra: Recommended grade levels 8 – 12 or FLC undergraduates (Suzuki Book 5 and up). Private lessons and participation in school music programs are highly encouraged.

  • Three-octave scales of your choice: one major and one melodic minor
  • Solo or etude of your choice (demonstrating multiple positions)
  • Sight reading exercise

Junior String Orchestra: Recommended grade levels 4 – 9, playing and reading up to 2 sharps and 2 flats, at least 1 year of lessons required. (Suzuki Book 2 “Gavotte from Mignon” through Book 5). Private lessons and participation in school music programs are highly encouraged.

  • Two octave scale of your choice
  • Solo piece of your choice (demonstrating shifting and vibrato)

Audition Dates:

New and returning strings: Tuesday, August 27, 2019, 6 – 9 PM, Jones Hall at Fort Lewis College
(*for new students and those who wish to move up; these are NOT seating auditions)

Woodwinds/Brass/Percussion: Thursday, August 29, 6 – 9 PM, Durango High School Band Room.

Changes to Mentoring Program: Students will no longer be offered a tuition discount for mentoring. YO students who are interested in mentoring are encouraged to take advantage of their school’s Community Service requirements and to consider the benefits of adding this to their High School Resume. The time change for both orchestras will provide YO students with the opportunity to mentor the JSO prior to their own rehearsal.

Further information about the new music director for the Youth Orchestra should be available at the beginning of July. Around that, time we hope to have our calendar finalized and some repertoire choices to share as well! We are looking forward to another exciting year of great music and camaraderie within our musical family. Please feel free to reach out with any questions you may have. In the meantime, have a terrific summer!!


Cindy Bonitz-Ryan
Youth Orchestra Manager


Youth Education

Thomas TeachingIn addition to the Youth Orchestra program, the San Juan Symphony’s Youth Education program provides opportunities for music students to participate in our subscription concerts as orchestra members and as audience members, and to learn from our visiting Guest Artists.

The Education program arranges an annual Side-By-Side concert where area school students are featured on stage with the symphony for a portion of the program. The Side-by-Side includes additional coachings and rehearsals with symphony musicians.

Thanks to the generosity of our donors in Durango and Farmington, the SJS is able to underwrite the cost 50-100 music student tickets for each subscription concert. Student tickets may be requested through the SJS office.

The SJS works with the Artist in Residence program at Fort Lewis College to provide masterclasses for area musicians. On occasion, our Guest Artists make visits to classrooms in the Four Corners area to speak to music students.

The San Juan Symphony also maintains a cooperative relationship with Fort Lewis College where both faculty and students are members of the orchestra.

Family Concert and Instrument Petting Zoo