HYS is Hawaii’s only statewide orchestra program for youth, and a comprehensive community resource for orchestral music in Hawaii. Each year, HYS serves approximately 650 students, ages 7-18, from nearly 100 schools on different islands – and from all skill levels.

An unparalleled and comprehensive music education

During the academic year, HYS operates three full-symphonic orchestras and four string orchestras, instructing students who are absolute beginners to the most accomplished young musicians. Education and performance are key elements of the HYS curriculum. During the summer months, HYS conducts two outreach programs: Summer Strings geared toward elementary school children; and the Pacific Music Institute (PMI),a music immersion program for middle- and high-school students from all islands of Hawaii, the mainland, and the Asia/Pacific region. HYS’s commitment to excellence requires students to audition each year for all groups except the two youngest string orchestras, Beginning String Ensemble and Intermediate String Ensemble,and our summer programs. Partial financial aid for registration fees, instrument rentals, and required private lessons assists many students who could not otherwise participate.

HYS learns and plays together and for the community

Typically, more than 16,000 seats are filled at 24 public performances during a regular season. The concert season includes free performances on Oahu and the neighbor islands. HYS also presents free Listen & Learn educational concerts for nearly 10,000 school children each year. These are Hawaii’s only symphony concerts by youth for youth. HYS develops its curriculum around four core values

  • Lifelong Learning
  • Musical Excellence
  • Community Service
  • A Future for Music

“My favorite thing about HYS is allowing me to challenge myself with orchestral music, a thing I cannot do at my current school because there is only a band, not an orchestra.” Leilehua High School string bassist

Why we do it

The understanding that music education contributes to general learning is time-honored and supportable. Music students do better than their non-musical counterparts in math, reading and writing, and on SAT tests. The demands of weekly rehearsals and multiple performances require responsibility, organization, commitment, discipline, self-confidence, poise, and an ability to listen to others. HYS also expects a high standard of professionalism from its participants. HYS fills a large gap in music education for Hawaii’s youth. Though music education has lasting, positive effects on childhood development and learning, the quality of HYS’s music program is not available in most public schools. Few music specialists exist at the elementary schools and only 15% of the state’s high schools offer any type of orchestral program. HYS provides a learning environment that fosters cooperation, communication and teamwork among students from many schools and cultural backgrounds. HYS collaborates with artists, musicians, composers, entertainers and arts groups throughout the state and beyond to give its students musical experiences they cannot find elsewhere. No music program in Hawaii offers as many opportunities to perform in professionally-produced concerts with other musical partners. These performances greatly enhance students’ musical understanding and expose them to a rare spectrum of presentation art forms. “Exposure to classical music has helped me to grow in the way I’ve learned to read and interpret music.” – Kalani High School trombone player

HYS’s commitment

Music makes better communities. In addition to contributing to the cultural richness of society, it is clearly associated with academic and personal characteristics that correlate with developing well-educated young people necessary to preserve and carry forth the well-being of our communities. By bringing together hundreds of youth from diverse backgrounds and schools, HYS’s strength lies not only in its reputation for unwavering musical excellence but in its ability to create common bonds around orchestral music. HYS’s commitment, however, goes beyond training young musicians. HYS gives its students the skills for lifelong learning and the foundation for becoming better citizens. By upholding its tradition of musical excellence, HYS is making a significant contribution to the future of music by developing new generations of musicians, and audiences with an appreciation for their music.


Nonprofit Status

The Hawaii Youth Symphony has been incorporated since 1964 and is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our EIN is 99-0119771.