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Frequently Asked Questions

Who, What, When, Where, and How

What is the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America?

NYO-USA is a program for orchestral players ages 16–19 created by Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute. Each summer, a group of the country's most talented young instrumentalists comes together to interact with each other, learn from an all-star faculty, play under the direction of a celebrated conductor, and tour to different parts of the world, playing in some of the most famous concert halls. As a member of NYO-USA, you will be a musical ambassador, representing your home school/ensemble, your state/region, and your country.

Who can be part of NYO-USA?

NYO-USA is open to US citizens or permanent residents (green card holders) from all backgrounds. You must be between the ages of 16 and 19 during the summer of your participation. For 2020, this means your birthdate must be between July 1, 2000, and June 30, 2004, without exception. Starting in 2020, participation in NYO-USA is limited to high school students within the age range above. You must be enrolled in high school or the equivalent level of homeschooling during the 2019–2020 academic year to be eligible for the 2020 NYO-USA program. Gap-year students who graduated from high school in 2019 (or earlier) are not eligible.

When is the program?

NYO-USA is a summer program, scheduled each year for four to five weeks between late June and mid-August, depending on the tour destination and itinerary. The 2020 program will take place from early July to early August. Specific arrival and departure dates will be announced later. Because of the intensive nature of the program, no absences for any part of this period are permitted.

Where does the NYO-USA training residency take place?

NYO-USA is in residence at Purchase College, SUNY, for the first three weeks of the program. Located 30 miles north of New York City on 550 scenic acres in Westchester County, Purchase College has outstanding rehearsal and practice facilities, including a conservatory music building and a highly regarded, multi-venue performing arts center, where all full orchestral rehearsals will take place. The college's newest residence hall ("Fort Awesome") houses players during the residency portion of the program.

Where will the orchestra tour?

NYO-USA tours to a different part of the world each year, following a kick-off concert at Carnegie Hall. In 2020, NYO-USA will be touring North America. In 2019, NYO-USA is returning to Europe. In 2018, NYO-USA traveled to Asia, making return appearances in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as its debuts in Taiwan and South Korea. In 2017 NYO-USA toured Latin America, performing at concert venues in Mexico, Ecuador, and Colombia. NYO-USA has twice visited Europe and in 2014 made a coast-to-coast US tour, starting at Tanglewood and ending at the Los Angeles Music Center’s Disney Hall.

Will NYO-USA play at Carnegie Hall?

Yes, NYO-USA will perform annually in Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage before embarking on its tour.

How do I apply?

Please see the application instructions for more information.

How will my application be evaluated?

Applications will be reviewed based on the applicant's technical ability, musicianship, passion, willingness to collaborate, intellectual curiosity, willingness to travel, and social and emotional maturity. As a national orchestra, NYO-USA expects to include a broad range of highly qualified participants from across the country to reflect the exceptional diversity of the United States.


Are there any exceptions to the age requirement?

No, you must be between the ages of 16 and 19, within the specified range of birth dates and grade levels, during the summer of your intended participation.

Are there positions for my instrument?

NYO-USA will be a full-sized symphony orchestra of about 110 players. Musicians may apply on the following instruments: violin, viola, cello, bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, bass trombone, tuba, and percussion (including timpani). In certain years, based on repertoire, there may be positions for other instruments. The 2020 orchestra does not include positions for harp and orchestral keyboard.

May I apply on more than one instrument?

Yes, but a separate application is required for each instrument. Please note that auxiliary instruments (such as piccolo, English horn, and bass clarinet) do not require a separate application. However, if you are proficient on one of these instruments, we encourage you to include the applicable excerpt (to be provided by Carnegie Hall) on your audition video.

Will I be able to participate in NYO-USA more than once?

Yes, as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements. Please note that all players are required to re-apply and submit a new audition video each year.

Why are temporary US visa holders ineligible for NYO-USA?

As a national youth orchestra, NYO-USA is designed for young musicians who have a permanent and ongoing connection to the United States of America. Students or other dependents temporarily in the United States are ordinarily able to join their home country youth orchestras. Additionally, because of the nature of international touring and restrictions on the issuance of foreign-country visas to temporary residents of the US, all NYO-USA members must have permanent residency status in the United States.

Application Process

My solo is longer than three minutes. Is that okay?

While you can select a three-minute excerpt from a longer work or recorded performance, please keep your solo submission as close to the three-minute mark as possible. We receive a large number of applicants, and our review panel listens carefully to all auditions. It is not possible, however, for them to listen to submissions considerably longer than the three minutes requested.

May I put two short pieces together to make my three minute solo submission? May I create a solo submission made up of highlights from a longer recording?

We prefer that you submit one continuous recording.

Do both of my references need to be musicians?

No, just one of them must be. While general music teachers, orchestra directors, or private instructors are all acceptable as musical references, an academic instructor or other non-music reference may be invited as well.

Are we required to submit three references?

No, only two are required. If you feel a third reference may be able to add a different perspective to your application, you are welcome to include one.

My video recordings are not professional quality. Will this hurt my chances of being accepted?

No. We understand that not everyone has the means to provide a professional video recording, and our goal is to make this program accessible to all who wish to apply. As long as the applicant is clearly visible and audible, your audition will be judged on its musical merits and not on its production values. Most auditions, including successful auditions, have been recorded using basic home video equipment.

May I send additional information about musical and/or personal accomplishments after the application deadline?

We are unable to consider any supplemental application materials received once the application has closed, since the review process begins immediately after the deadline.

Guests Artists and Faculty

Who is the conductor of NYO-USA?

NYO-USA has no permanent music director and is led by a different renowned conductor each summer. In 2019 the orchestra will be led by Sir Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden since 2002, and Music Director of the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome since 2005. Past conductors have including Michael Tilson Thomas, Marin Alsop, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Valery Gergiev, and David Robertson.

Who are the faculty for NYO-USA?

Musical preparation during NYO-USA's residency will be overseen by orchestra director James Ross, who will lead the full ensemble in initial readings and rehearsals. Working with individual instrument groups will be a dream team of principal players from top American orchestras, who will coach sectional rehearsals and share perspectives on their lives as professional musicians. The 2020 faculty will be announced early next year. Visit to view the 2019 faculty.


What else can I expect as part of my NYO-USA experience?

The NYO-USA program will include social and recreational time, seminars on broader topics relating to the tour program and itinerary, and opportunities for peer-to-peer exchange and sightseeing while on tour.

Are there any fees or costs to me associated with NYO-USA?

NYO-USA is a tuition-free program for all participants. The program provides room and board during the residency and covers all expenses related to instructional, rehearsal, performance, and tour activities (including tour-related visa costs, airfares, and other transportation, as well as hotels, meals, and group sightseeing).

There is an application fee of $30, payable online at the time you complete your application. Additionally, accepted applicants will be responsible for arranging their own travel to and from the New York City area at the start and conclusion of the program, and for the costs of obtaining/renewing their passport.

For those applicants who demonstrate substantial financial need, the application fee may be waived upon completion of a waiver request form. Carnegie Hall staff will respond to waiver requests within 10 business days of the receipt of a completed form and provide further instructions to applicants whose requests are approved. The deadline for completion of applications for summer 2020, with or without a fee waiver, is November 14, 2019.

Financial aid may also be available to successful applicants for whom the travel costs associated with participation in NYO-USA present a financial hardship. Additional details will be available upon acceptance.

Lead Donors: Hope and Robert F. Smith, Marina Kellen French and the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, The Kovner Foundation, Beatrice Santo Domingo, and Nicola and Beatrice Bulgari.

Global Ambassadors: Hope and Robert F. Smith, and Maggie and Richard Tsai.

United Airlines logo

NYO-USA Sponsor: United Airlines®, Official Airline of Carnegie Hall.

Major funding has been provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Carl Jacobs Foundation, and JMCMRJ Sorrell Foundation.

Additional funding has been provided by Sarah Arison, The Jack Benny Family Foundation, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, and Mary Anne Huntsman Morgan and The Huntsman Foundation.

Department of State United States of America logo

Public funding has been provided by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Blavatnik Family Foundation

Founder Patrons: Blavatnik Family Foundation; Nicola and Beatrice Bulgari; The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; Marina Kellen French and the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation; The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation; Ronald O. Perelman; Robertson Foundation; Beatrice Santo Domingo; Hope and Robert F. Smith; Sarah Billinghurst Solomon and Howard Solomon; and Joan and Sanford I. Weill and the Weill Family Foundation.