Detroit-area student musicians encouraged to audition for OYO

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published March 27, 2013

 Auditions will be held this spring for Oakland Youth Orchestras, a four-tiered program with two string orchestras.

Auditions will be held this spring for Oakland Youth Orchestras, a four-tiered program with two string orchestras.

ROCHESTER — Students seeking a challenge beyond what’s offered through their school music program are encouraged to audition for Oakland Youth Orchestras this spring.
Established in 1975, OYO is a nonprofit youth orchestra organization devoted to teaching children music in an orchestral setting.

“We basically serve the student population that might not have any orchestra or band program in their particular school — most of the schools will have a band program, but not everybody has a string program — as well as students that want to be challenged beyond what they are receiving in their home school,” said Executive Director Joanne Walle.

OYO is a four-tiered program with two string orchestras — studio strings and strings — and two full orchestras — philharmonia and symphony.

“OYO is a wonderful educational opportunity for these kids. … We want the kids to feel very accomplished, make new friends and just instill that love of music in them because these kids are the future of music,” Walle said.

Students from public, private and home schools, in second through 12th grades, can join more than 325 other students from three counties, 37 communities, 25 school districts and 16 private schools from Southeast Michigan by auditioning for OYO. Auditions will take place on weekends, April 19 through May 19, at in Varner Hall at Oakland University. All instrument categories will be considered at open auditions, as each year every instrument category has openings due to students moving up within the organization and graduating from the program. Audition signup begins April 1 at

All returning and prospective OYO members must audition, and requirements vary depending on the students’ proficiency on their instruments and the orchestra level they are auditioning for.

“All the kids have to have some basic fundamental skills — sight reading, note reading, counting — to be able to audition and be accepted,” Walle said.

OYO Symphony Orchestra senior conductor Zeljko Milicevic, who is also a former student of the program, encourages students who are naturally drawn to a focused approach of achieving a high level of playing — and who are looking for an additional opportunity and a challenge — to audition.

The OYO program fosters enrichment through opportunities in music theory, chamber music, community outreach performance and competitions.

“It’s meant to be compatible, and even augment what happens in areas schools, so students have additional opportunities, and then they continue going back to their own personal school and they have a different level of contribution for their own school program, as well,” Milicevic said.

Those selected to join one of the four orchestras will have the opportunity to spend their next school season under the guidance of accomplished musicians and also get the chance to perform in three major concerts with award-winning solo artists and conductors.

Students will rehearse in a group once a week, September through April, and are expected to practice their parts on their own throughout the week. Rehearsal times and places are specific to the orchestra a student belongs to and are held on Thursdays in the evening at either University Presbyterian Church in Rochester Hills or Oakland University in Varner Hall.

Upon acceptance into one of the OYO orchestras, students in financial need may apply for partial or full tuition aid. Walle said OYO is committed to helping every student member in need of financial aid, so 100 percent of students who apply receive some form of aid. Tuition for studio string students is $225 per year, and $25 is nonrefundable. 
For all other student levels, tuition is $275 per year, and $25 is nonrefundable.

OYO is supported in part with grants from the Michigan Council of the Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information about Oakland Youth Orchestras or for the audition guide, visit