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For over 60 years, the Albuquerque Youth Symphony Program (AYSP) has provided high-quality music education and outstanding symphonic music performance opportunities for students to share their musical gifts with the community. Formed in1955, AYSP was a collaborative project between the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) and the University of New Mexico (UNM).
Dr. Kurt Frederick of UNM’s Department of Music was the founding Music Director and conductor of the Youth Symphony, which then included students in grades 7-12. Dr. Frederick was an Austrian born violinist and conductor who came to Albuquerque in 1942. During this time here, he served on the faculty of the University of New Mexico Department of Music and founded the UNM Symphony Orchestra, UNM Opera Workshop, UNM Madrigal Singers, Albuquerque Opera Theater (now Opera Southwest), and the Albuquerque Youth Symphony Program.
Over the first few years, due to the popularity of the group, the program divided the Youth Symphony into two groups: the Junior Orchestra, grades 7–9, and the Youth Symphony for older students grades 10–12. In 1964, Dale Kempter succeeded Dr. Frederick as Music Director. With continuing student interest in the program over the next twenty years, Mr. Kempter led the expansion of the program from two orchestras to four: two high school orchestras, for students in grades 9-12, and two middle school orchestras, for students in grades 6-8.
In the early 1990s, a joint task force comprised of representatives of UNM and APS, along with various community leaders, recommended that AYSP become an independent non-profit organization under the governance of a board of directors. Still today, representatives of both APS and UNM provide valuable leadership to AYSP as members of the AYSP Board of Directors.
Over the next 25 years, AYSP continued to expand under Music Directors Gabriel Gordon and Sayra Siverson to serve even more students, adding the Preparatory String Orchestra, Junior String Orchestra, Junior Band, Youth Concert Orchestra, Chamber Music Program, Opera Apprenticeship Program, Educational Outreach Series and Marimba Ensemble.
What began in 1955 as a single orchestra has steadily and sustainably grown to a program that today serves approximately 500 students annually. Hundreds of students in grades 3-12 audition each season for placement in one of the program’s eight main ensembles for strings, woodwinds, brass, harp and percussion.
It is thanks to numerous individuals each season – talented and highly trained artistic staff, administrative staff, board members, community partners, parents, and students – that AYSP continues a tradition of excellence in music education and performance!