Playing Viola outside of school

My daughter loves to play Viola(made it to allstate), but she wants to be focused on Math/Stem courses. She wants to have electives focused on Spanish(4yrs) and Engineering courses. School does not have a zero hour to pursue Orchestra. Are there any ways by which she could pursue Orchestra outside of school.

My D graduated HS in 2013. She too played viola and was a STEM student. Are there any local orchestras she could play in? My D played in the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (an excellent orchestra by the way). If you live near a city you could check to see if they have a Youth Orchestra she could audition for. I know the DPYO attracts students from a rather wide area around Dayton.

My D went on to play for her college orchestra and graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering. It’s a lot of work but it can be done.


By the way if she wants to be an engineer focus on chemistry, math and physics courses. I’m not sure Engineering elective courses are necessary. She might consider looking into colleges that have pre engineering summer programs. Purdue has their STEP program (Seminar for Top Engineering Prospects) and there are other schools with similar programs. It will immerse her the various types of engineering and introduce her to problem solving. See if there is a Robotics team either in the school or nearby (think fighting robots). It’s not really necessary but you do get to collaborate on design and problem solving which is much of what engineering is about. Spanish will be helpful fulfilling her language requirement for a lot of schools but unless she intends to go to school or work in a predominately Spanish speaking area further electives won’t be necessary.

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I don’t know where you live, but you could try to see if there are any youth orchestras in your area. If there is a non youth philharmonic orchestra in your town or nearby, you could call them and see if there is a youth orchestra. Often the youth orchestras are in some ways sponsored by the regular philharmonic orchestra. At least from what I’ve heard. Even if they don’t have a youth orchestra, they often have community and youth events and programs. At the very least they might be able to point you in the right direction. There is usually a number for the public to call

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All the local orchestra’s want her to be on the school orchestra to audition. Is that a mandatory requirement.

I’d suggest your D contact the music department at the school. They should be able to help arrange for private lessons and would likely know of opportunities to play in the local area. There may also be opportunities to play as part of a pit orchestra for shows or something along those lines.

FWIW my D’s college (a LAC) had orchestra rehearsals one evening a week so she was able to participate despite her very full STEM based college schedule. And her prof/conductor was understanding if a rehearsal had to be missed on occasion.

My daughter had to drop music (different instrument) in HS too because of not having enough room in her schedule. She continued to take lessons, participate in competitions, accompanied when she could, and ended up leading music rehearsals for theater. Plenty of ways to keep playing.

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In HS, ask her Viola teacher if they have recommendations.

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The music major forum here in CC may be helpful too.

Conservatories have preparatory schools with their own orchestra, and yes, youth philharmonic or other youth orchestra may be possible. Don’t know if any of these are accessible where you live.

If not an orchestra, maybe there is a local ensemble that she could play with?

Summer programs?

My kid skipped a science and dropped a level in math in order to do music in high school, and got into a top school (Ivy). They recognized the dedication behind those choices. However, my kid was not interested in engineering! I wish high schools didn’t force young people to choose so early.

Good luck!

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We are in the suburbs of Atlanta. I know it is difficult for the kids to narrow down their choices. But we are trying to get where she wants to.

There used to be a Youth Symphony in Atlanta.

Look for youth symphonies or pre-college orchestra programs.

Right now, this might be a challenge to find, but if civic theater musical productions return, perhaps she could play in their orchestras.

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I don’t believe it is here. There are students in programs that do not offer an orchestra (both public and private schools) but they still take lessons and are excellent musicians. I know they have played in the DPYO. I know the DPYO selects by audition. I’m not sure how your local orchestras would handle that.

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You have several options in the Atlanta area - Atlanta youth, Georgia youth, Emory youth are just a few I found in a quick search.

The school orchestra participation requirement is a tough one. If the right program for her requires participation in her local school orchestra (if there is one), and if she is a high enough level player to get into the youth symphony, and if she needs to use all her class periods for academic classes, there is a way around it. First of all, if she can take orchestra during her lunch period, grab or bring her lunch, and eat it quickly in orchestra, then play for the rest of the period, that would work. Another option, if she needs to take an academic class during lunch, is for her to volunteer to play as a “ringer” for the school orchestra. Usually school orchestra level is so much lower than the greater metropolitan area youth symphony, that if she is good enough to make it into the youth symphony, playing as a ringer for the school orchestra would be a breeze. That way, her orchestra teacher at school can certify that she DOES participate in youth orchestra (as a ringer for concerts), so she would meet that requirement for the youth symphony.

My kid never got to play in regionals/all state at the high school level, because he would have had to take not one, but TWO class periods a day of band to be eligible to audition (jazz and regular band), and he wanted to take more academic classes. He wound up going a completely different route - the independent youth symphony and pre-college program route. I’m kind of surprised that any independent youth symphony would make school orchestra a requirement, but I suspect that she can get around it, as I outlined above.

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One other tip: with a dancer and a musician in the family, we used online classes for scheduling issues like this. That could free up some academic classes and make room for high school music performance classes.

We liked this one: VHS Learning | VHS Learning This also gave flexibility for rehearsals and performance.

VHS has deadlines every week. An even more flexible one was Aventa learning under educere.

Participation in conservatory prep programs and performances did not have the same requirement of participation at school. At least in our experience.

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My kids used all their resources to stay in music and fine arts classes. Zero hour, online, summer school, dual enrollment. Two of them did this while maintaining their academics (lots of AP classes, most rigorous curriculums). The third made some academic compromises to stay in both orchestra and choir all four years, but he’s the music major now. I do think the opportunities for this vary even between districts in our area and you have to find what works in yours. Ours was flexible and my kids made the most of that.
For engineering she just needs four years of science, preferably with chem and physics. Calculus is great. And whatever engineering related extracurriculars or summer programs you can find. My D had none of the extracurriculars (all art and music) and she’s an engineer now anyway. :slight_smile: Spanish is always useful. This is where it gets tough because not everything fits and choices have to be made. Even if you can find a way to fit everything in, the next challenge is making an actual class schedule work. By senior year this got very challenging for my kids but we made it happen.

The youth symphonies in our area have requirements that the students stay in their school orchestras so that they are supporting rather than competing with school programs. If you ask you may be able to find exceptions to that. If she takes private lessons to progress her skills during the school year, there are many orchestra summer programs out there she could participate in.


Our STEM D took summer HS courses twice. I believe the summer before her sophomore year she took Chemistry then AP Chem her sophomore year. She also took a summer PE course to satisfy that requirement. That opened up a couple time periods for her. She did did take 4 years of Spanish. It mostly helped her on of all things a college trip her college orchestra took to Spain. They went to a little hole in the wall restaurant/bar and they didn’t speak English. My D ended (rather brokenly) to do all of the ordering for everyone. The people at the establishment gave her free drinks.

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@annie212 There are wonderful youth ensembles in the ATL Metro area - check out the following orchestras, many of these also have chamber groups under their umbrellas: MYSO (GSU based), GYSO (KSU based), Emory has a youth orchestra (Emory based) and Emory also has a VEGA quartet curated program for string players. And, of course - there is an ASYO, which is an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra based youth orchestra. They just started offering Digital Academy program too (new Music Director Jerry Hou started last fall, he is still teaching at Rice, I believe). They are doing so many exciting things at ASYO!

Some youth orchestras require you to be in good standing/participate in your school music program.

There are also local, county or city based community orchestras, some have opportunities for teens, some don’t, so research local ones - in Gwinnett, Johns Creek, etc. Many suspended their sessions due to the pandemic.

Private lessons are the way to go, depending on how invested your D is in pursuing viola experience. There are a lot of great teachers in the Atlanta area and several online tutoring projects young musicians can take advantage of.

Please consider one important thing before leaving the HS music program - she may be disqualified from participating in GMEA’s all-state and district festivals and GHP orchestra opportunities, if she does not participate in orchestra program at school.

There is an opportunity to take an extra credit online classes in STEM and Math field during the regular school year or during summer. Please take a look at the GVS or your county school system’s online offerings, if she wants to create more space for a HS orchestra class during her school year. Keep in mind, AP classes are not usually offered during the summer.

DM me if you have any questions about MYSO, Emory and ASYO, or GVS/GOC.

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