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What is YMCO?

Young Musicians Choral Orchestra is the only choral orchestra in the country, using year-round comprehensive music-training, academic tutoring and personal guidance to transform the lives of children and place them on a pathway to college.


What is a choral orchestra?

A choral orchestra is a miraculous combination of singing and playing orchestral instruments. Each student must sing in the chorus and play in the orchestra, on the same concert. The transformation occurs, seamlessly and in silence for all to witness. It challenges the mind, the vision and the ears of the audience.


What is YMCO’s Mission?

The mission of the Young Musicians Choral Orchestra™ (YMCO) is to use high quality, intensive musical training, academic support, and personal guidance to improve the lives of talented, low-income students, ages 9-18, from throughout the Bay Area. By advancing their academic, musical, and personal accomplishments throughout their middle-school and high-school years, YMCO enhances students’ competitive appeal and success at four-year universities and conservatories. All of YMCO’s services are provided at no cost.


When was YMCO founded?

YMCO received its IRS Letter of Determination as an independent 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization on June 19, 2013. However, the first time that the students sang and played on the same concert was in June, 2011.


Where do the students come from?

YMCO students currently represent 4 counties in the Bay Area: Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and Napa. They attend over 60 different schools.


How are they chosen?

Students are chosen via live auditions and personal interview with the Executive Director.


How do the students hear about the program?

Students hear about the program from YMCO participants, their teachers and via direct mailings to middle and high schools in the Bay Area.


Who is eligible?

Students between the ages of 10 (current 5th graders) and 17 (current 11th graders) are eligible for membership. They must live in the Bay area and meet low-income eligibility guidelines. Students at all levels of musical achievement may apply. Students must have a 2.5 GPA upon entering YMCO but must commit to moving the GPA to 3.5 or better by graduation from the program.


How do you define low-income?

The income guidelines that YMCO uses to determine eligibility are calculated from the Federal Poverty Guidelines as published in the Federal Register, annually.


2019 Eligibility Guidelines

Household Size                 Eligible Income

1                                                $69,000

2                                                $78,850

3                                                $88,700

4                                                $98,550

5                                                $106,450

6                                                $114,350

7                                                $122,250

8                                                $130,100


How do I apply?

Students are accepted on a rolling basis, throughout the year. Applications are available by clicking here:

You may also request an application by calling the YMCO office: (510)845-YMCO (9626) or by sending an e-mail to:

Once accepted into the program, a student is eligible to continue until graduating from high school. YMCO scholarships are renewed, annually, based upon the student’s successful execution of the three tenets of the YMCO Power Triangle: Music, Academics and Citizenship.

What happens at the audition?

Applicants are required to play or sing one or more of the following:

-          A short composition (does not have to be memorized)

-          Scales (one or more)

-          Etudes (if applicable)

Beginners are welcome to apply. In those cases, applicants are accepted based upon innate musical skills, which are readily apparent via a brief musicality test.

What is the summer session?

Though YMCO is a year-round program, the most concentrated period of activity occurs in the summer. The summer session is an intensive 6-week program of daily music classes, 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM. Daily attendance is mandatory.


Are students given transportation assistance?

Complimentary BART tickets, ACT Transit and Clipper cards are provided to students to cover transportation for all YMCO sanctioned events, i.e., private lessons, summer session, special events.


What happens during the school year?

Students take 1 or 2 private lessons per week, October through May. They attend weekly YMCO rehearsals at the YMCA/PG&E Teen Center. Monthly recitals are held at various venues throughout the Bay Area.


How much does YMCO cost?

YMCO is a full scholarship program. All instruction, supplies, music, instruments, breakfast & lunch during the summer and transportation are provided at no cost. However, students must make a commitment to work hard, be accountable and become ambassadors for the program….at home, at school, and throughout the community. YMCO is a gift, to be valued and protected.


Where do YMCO graduates attend college?

YMCO graduates are admitted to attend the leading universities and conservatories in the nation. 100% of the students are given scholarships; 75% of them are for full tuition and room and board. The list includes: Harvard, Yale, Smith, Brown, Williams, Stanford, UC Berkeley, University of Michigan School of Music, Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory, Cleveland Institute, Oberlin, San Francisco Conservatory, The New School, Wellesley, Columbia, Brown, University of Arizona, Auburn, Michigan State, San Jose State and Cal Arts.


What is the value of a YMCO Scholarship?

Each scholarship is valued at $12,000 per student.

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