UNH Youth Symphony Orchestra

UNH Youth Symphony Orchestra

The mission of the University of New Hampshire Youth Symphony Orchestra is to provide orchestral experiences of the highest possible caliber to string students in the seacoast region of New Hampshire, southern Maine, and northeastern Massachusetts. By providing quality musical instruction and high standards of rigor, the UNH-YSO seeks to help students develop in their technical capabilities and musical understanding.

UNH-YSO 2021-2022 Academic Year Program Information

The UNH-YSO has been authorized to run in-person rehearsals and performances for the 2021-2022 school year! Please read below for complete details about our COVID-19 procedures and policies.

COVID-19: As of August 2021, UNH is allowing youth programs to run in-person activities on campus. Of course, this may change as the school year progresses, and the safety and health of the YSO students and staff will remain our top priority. To that end, we will implement the following policies:

  • Anyone exhibiting symptoms of any illness must not come to rehearsal.
  • Masks are required at all times. All students and staff must always wear clean and tight-fitting masks over their nose and mouth whenever they are inside the PCAC. Failure to do so will result in immediate dismissal from the premises and possibly the program.
  • Personal distancing of 3 feet will be maintained. To accomplish this, each student will need to bring their own music stand to rehearsal, as sitting with stand partners will not be possible. UNH music stands will not be provided until we are clear of the pandemic.
  • Enrollment may be limited. We will endeavor to accommodate all students who wish to participate. However, if the limitations of space and staffing require, we may need to limit the number of participants in the program.
  • Temporary suspension of activities. If circumstances demand, we may have to suspend rehearsals for a week or two in order to allow a spike in COVID cases to resolve. So long as we believe this suspension to be temporary, the program will not be cancelled. We will not be able to offer refunds for rehearsals missed for this reason.
  • Cancellation of the program. Should the pandemic spread out of control, it may be necessary to cancel the remainder of the semester. In this instance, we will not attempt to move the program online. Refunds will be offered, although the exact amount of the refund will depend upon the number of expenses the program has incurred by that point in time. However, due to start-up expenses that cannot be recovered, no more than $70 of the $100 tuition will be refunded at any point in the semester.

Beyond the above, the UNH-YSO program intends to run as usual, including full rehearsals, sectionals, and possible one-to-one coaching sessions. However, if circumstances require, we will respond accordingly and adapt our procedures.

Who is eligible? String players in grades 4 through grade 12, and home-schooled students of an equivalent age, are eligible to audition for the UNH-YSO. Exceptionally advanced musicians of younger age may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Woodwinds, brass and percussion students are currently not included in the youth symphony, but may be added to the ensemble in future years. 

Master Schedule: UNH-YSO Schedule Summary Fall 2021

Where: Paul Creative Arts Center, 30 Academic Way, Durham, NH.

Tuition:  Tuition for the Fall 2021 session is $100. 

Rehearsals: UNH-YSO activities are held on Sunday evenings. 

  • The Concert Orchestra is typically comprised of students in the upper elementary grades and middle school and rehearses from 6:00 to 7:30 pm.
  • The Symphony Orchestra is typically comprised of high school age students and rehearses from 7:30 to 9:00 pm.
  • If the number of participants and skill levels permit, we may also offer an advanced Chamber Orchestra from 7:30 to 9:00 pm. The Chamber Orchestra has no age limitations.

Target Skill Levels
Please click here to view approximate skill levels for each orchestra

Auditions: Students are selected for participation in the UNH-YSO via an audition process, designed to ensure that students possess the abilities necessary to be successful in the program. Students who are not placed into the orchestra one year are invited to audition again in future years.
Please click here to view approximate skill levels for each orchestra

Auditions for the 2021-2022 school year will be held in person in the Paul Creative Arts Center (UNH Campus, Durham) on Sunday evening, September 12th, between 5:00 and 9:00 PM. After completing a brief registration questionnaire, the YSO staff will assign you an audition time which will be emailed to you no later than Friday, September 10th. Younger students will be assigned earlier times automatically, and families can indicate any schedule limitations they may have that evening. If you have an unavoidable conflict with September 12th entirely, please complete the registration questionnaire anyway. We will then make separate arrangements.

Please follow this link to register for an audition time.

If you have questions, please contact David.Upham@unh.edu

     Audition Requirements: The following are the audition requirements for joining the UNH-YSO. Please be prepared to do all of the following. When selecting your excerpts (i.e., the scales and solo pieces), please choose things that show your best, current abilities. This is most likely not something you are currently working on, but something you’ve recently completed or “polished.”

  • Scales: Prepare one major and one melodic minor scale of your choosing. 
    • Scales should demonstrate your full range and best tone production.
    • Intermediate bass players must perform a chromatic scale from the open E string to the B in first position on the G string.
  • Solo: Please prepare a solo excerpt that will demonstrate your abilities.
    • Please prepare only 1-2 minutes of your best material.
  • Sight-reading: During the audition, we will present each student with a short passage of music unfamiliar to them. After briefly reviewing the music mentally, the student will be asked to play it. This is intended simply to ensure that all participants are adept at reading music, as rehearsal time is insufficient to allow students to learn all their music by rote.

Ongoing Instruction: Youth symphony students are expected to be pursuing individual or group instruction on their instruments while participating in the UNH-YSO.  Private lesson instruction fulfills this expectation, as does participation in a school ensemble program that meets two or more times per week and is dedicated to bowed string instruments (violin, viola, cello, bass).

School Participation Policy: One of the fundamental reasons for the founding of the UNH-YSO is to support string education in the region. The UNH-YSO seeks to support all school string programs that currently exist and hopes to encourage the creation of more. The UNH-YSO is not an alternative to instruction in a public or private school program; it is a supplement

Therefore, UNH-YSO students who attend a school where string instruction is offered as a part of the regular school curriculum must be participating in that school program. This would simultaneously fulfill the above requirement for ongoing instruction.

About the Conductor: The UNH-YSO will be conducted by Dr. David Upham. Dr. Upham is the conductor for the UNH Symphony Orchestra. You can read more about Dr. Upham and the UNH Symphony here.  Sectionals for the UNH-YSO will be led by UNH music education students and local professional string players, under the leadership and guidance of Dr. Upham. Sectionals for the UNH-YSO will be led by UNH music education students and local professional string players, under the leadership and guidance of Dr. Upham.

Student & Family Handbook: Complete information about the UNH-YSO can be found here in the Student and Family Handbook.  PLEASE NOTE THAT THE HANDBOOK IS NOT YET UPDATED TO REFLECT COVID-RELATED CHANGES, AS THESE REMAIN VERY FLUID.


Assistant Professor of Music (orchestra, conducting, string music education)
Phone: (603) 862-2000
Fax: (603) 862-3155

M206 Paul Creative Arts Center
30 Academic Way