Youth Orchestras of Fresno

Cultivating the musicians of tomorrow!

The Youth Orchestras have been a Fresno institution since 1950, when an all-city string ensemble of young musicians was formed. In 1953 winds and percussion were added and the group became the Kiwanis Youth Orchestra. Soon the orchestra gained a new sponsor, the Fresno Philharmonic, and in 1957 became the Fresno Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1988 the group’s name changed once again, and the Fresno Youth Philharmonic emerged—only to become, in a few more years, the group we know as Youth Orchestras of Fresno. This miracle was accomplished by Rick and Susan Gratz, who incorporated the organization as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 1995.

These days the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra is one of three orchestras — the others are the Youth Chamber and Youth Symphony Orchestras — that make up the Youth Orchestras of Fresno. We serve young musicians throughout the Central Valley, with students hailing from Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, and Tulare counties.  The Access Violin Program was established in fall of 2011 as a collaboration between the Youth Orchestras of Fresno, the Fresno County Office of Education, and the Bonner Family Foundation. Our FOOSA Festival/Fresno Summer Orchestra Academy, known simply as FOOSA, started with opera, and the energetic collaboration of tenor Scott Piper, in summer of 2013.

The organization has commissioned a number of original compositions from living composers, with grant assistance from New Music USA, the California Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Among our commissions are Fresno State composition professor Kenneth Froelich’s Jubilation Fanfare, composed for us in 2011; Fresno sin Frenos: Mariachi Madness, composed by Fresno State professor Benjamin Boone; A Beautiful Spark, composed as part of our Beethoven Ninth celebration by Fresno Kenneth Froelich; Water(less) Music, also by Ben Boone, commissioned in 2015 for our Water, Water, Everywhere concert, an exploration of the Valley’s troubled relationship with water—in this case the piece got a second performance by our summer FOOSA Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles; and Coming Home, a collection of Central-Valley-related works by Fresno State student composers Alexander Bianco, Chris Carreon, Mason Lamb, and Matthew Wheeler. For FOOSA 2017 we commissioned Subnatural Delights, by YOOF alum Joseph Bohigian, and for FOOSA 2018 we commissioned Solstice, again from composer Mason Lamb. For FOOSA 2019 we are commissioning a special overture from Matthew Wheeler.

YOOF also has a history of bringing in exceptional soloists to perform with the orchestras. Among guest artists have been violinists Vadim Gluzman and Jinjoo Cho, cellists Emilio Colon, Philippe Muller, and Czaba Onczay, pianist Andreas Werz, and a large number of singers, including Scott Piper and Christopher Bengocheatenors, Layna Chianakas, mezzo soprano, and Brigid deJong and Laura Pedersen, sopranos. During the 2016-2017 season, guest artists were Sphinx Competition junior winner Maria Sanderson, violin, Daniel Bolshoy, guitar, and, for a return visit, violinist Vadim Gluzman and his ex-Leopold Auer Stradivarius. In 2017-2018 our guest artists were violinist Erika Raum and pianist Steven Vanhauwaert. And in 2018-2019 we’ve got amazing tenor Scott Piper returning for our Love Conquers All (February 10), and another Indianapolis Violin Competition winner, Richard Lin, playing Khachaturian concerto on our May 26 concert (our Youth Music Extravaganza concert)!



We cultivate musical excellence and a spirit of cooperation in young musicians throughout California's Central Valley.

We are committed to the principles of access and excellence, and strive for comprehensive inclusiveness.


From José Antonio Abreu, founder of Venezuela's El Sistema, a program that promotes musical and social development in that country's youth:

“To my mind, our social problems all stem from a sense of exclusion. If you look at the world, you see that exclusion in some form or other is to blame for the explosion of social problems everywhere. So, we have to fight to bring as many people as we can, everyone, if possible, into our wonderful world of music, like the world of the orchestra, of singing, of art.” 


Organizations we support and which support us:
Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO)
Fresno Arts Council (FAC)
League of American Orchestras (LAO)