School of Music

Audition for Portland Youth Symphony Orchestras, Portland Youth Wind Ensemble, and Youth Choirs

Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra

Updated 7/18/2019

The USM Youth Ensembles invite young instrumentalists and singers (ages 8-18) to audition. The USM Youth Ensembles include: the Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Portland Youth Wind Ensemble, the Portland Youth Junior Orchestra, the Portland Young People's String Consort, the Southern Maine Youth Chorale and the Southern Maine Children’s Choir. All of these groups rehearse on Wednesday nights during the academic year. The instrumental ensembles perform two concerts each year at Merrill Auditorium and the choral ensembles perform two concerts each year at Corthell Concert Hall in Gorham.

Instrumental auditions generally take place each year in May for the following season. Vocal auditions are usually scheduled for early in September. Watch here for specific dates and times of upcoming auditions. 

The USM Youth Ensembles are administered by the USM School of Music and sponsored by Macy’s.

About the Ensembles

The Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra is made up of more than 70 musicians, ranging in age from 11 to 18. Established in 1942, the PYSO has grown into a pre-professional program of high caliber, which challenges its members with a diverse repertory of orchestral literature.This orchestra is conducted by USM’s associate professor and director of orchestral studies, Robert Lehmann.

Portland reviewer, Christopher Hyde, wrote in the Portland Press Herald about this group after the 2015 spring concert, “What is one to say about the Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra? They continue to amaze and inspire. On Thursday night they began with a rousing orchestral version of Voices of Spring by Johann Strauss Jr. (1825-99) that would give the Vienna Philharmonic pause, followed by an awe-inspiring rendition of the final three movements of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite.”

The Portland Youth Wind Ensemble began out of a need in the greater Portland area for a select wind ensemble for talented young wind players. It is dedicated to refining concert techniques through a sophisticated repertoire of wind and band literature. The principal chair musicians are also members of PYSO. The Ensemble will be conducted this year by USM's director of bands, Jackie Townsend. 

The Portland Youth Junior Orchestra is an intermediate-level string orchestra, which has as its primary goal to train its players to move into the PYSO. It stresses the building of solid fundamental orchestral skills, improvement in sight-readiing ability, and presents members with challenging and varied repertory. This orchestra is conducted by violinist Ferdinand Liva.

Read what Hyde wrote about this group: “A test of any string orchestra is its ability to bring out the characteristic voice of the composer. The Portland Youth Junior Orchestra, under Ferdinand Liva, did just that with the Sinfonia No. 1 in C Major, by Felix Mendelssohn. The job is even more difficult when the composer is still trying to find his own voice … at age 12! The early piece was written for professional musicians who got together to play at the Mendelssohn home, and is not “easy” by any stretch of the imagination.”

The Portland Young People’s String Consort gives less advanced string players training for the PYJO, a chance to become familiar with playing in an ensemble situation, following a conductor, and gaining formal concert experience. Established in 1979, the PYPSC offers adjunct support to string programs in Maine schools. This orchestra is conducted by Hanna Flewelling.

The Southern Maine Youth Chorale is comprised of singers grades 7-12, selected through an audition and voice screening process. We are looking for students with variety of attributes such as talent, musicianship, vocal skill, singing experience, and a serious interest in singing choral music. This group is conducted by Nicolás Alberto Dosman.

For more information about joining the USM Youth Ensembles, contact Binney Brackett,, (207) 780-5003, or visit

Those needing special accommodations to participate fully in the Youth Ensembles programs and concerts, contact Lori Arsenault, (207) 780-5142, Hearing impaired: call USM's telex / TDD number (207) 780-5646.

Press contacts

Lori Arsenault, USM School of Music and Department of Theatre,, 207-780-5142

Danielle Vayenas, USM Director of Communications,, 207-780-4150

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