Los Angeles Youth Orchestra is set for New York’s Carnegie Hall

Russell Steinberg conducts the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra.
(Markus Wernig / The Los Angeles Youth Orchestra)

The Los Angeles Youth Orchestra has played all over the city, UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall and the Skirball Cultural Center included. But it hasn’t ventured outside of L.A.

Now the orchestra will finally hit the road -- and it’s headed straight to Carnegie Hall.

“Why settle?” says Artistic Director Russell Steinberg.

More than 75 students, ages 8 to 18, will travel to New York for a Feb. 25 concert. The evening is in honor of their late program director and viola coach Eve Cohen, who passed away from cancer last October. Orchestra alumni who worked with Cohen will join the performance.


Steinberg feels his orchestra is ready to play the big stage. He’s also particularly proud of how diverse the group is.

“I believe we’re the widest geographical youth dispersion of any youth orchestra in L.A.,” he says. “We have people from Manhattan Beach and Torrance to downtown L.A. and Burbank -- any kids who have passion for music. And a lot of our kids are from schools that don’t have music programs.”

For the New York concert, composer-conductor Steinberg wrote two pieces for the orchestra to premiere: “EveStar,” in Cohen’s memory, and a piece called “Carnegie Overture.” The orchestra will also play Beethoven’s “Plus Symphony No. 8” and “The Miller’s Dance/Ritual Fire Dance” by Manuel de Falla.

The 8 p.m. performance will take place in Carnegie Hall’s main space, Stern Auditorium. The Los Angeles Youth Orchestra has 40 minutes on stage -- half the concert that night. The other half will be performed by several youth choirs from other parts of the country.

The Youth Orchestra was founded in 1999 with a semester grant from the Jewish Community Foundation. Steinberg has been conductor since day one, when the enterprise was based at Milken Community High School, where he worked; he was music director for the Stephen S. Wise Temple Schools.

By 2003, the orchestra -- then called the Stephen Wise Youth Orchestra -- had become so big, with more than 50 participating schools from all over the city, both public and private, that it was renamed the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra.


So where does the orchestra go from here, given their first out-of-town appearance is Carnegie Hall?

“They all retire at age 14,” Steinberg jokes. “No. We hope this will give us visibility. We’ll go for national competitions. And I’m hoping we can branch out right here in L.A. -- doing concerts in different communities.”


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