Policy Handbook

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Youth Orchestra & Primo Orchestra

2021 – 2022 Policies and Guidelines Handbook

Read our handbook below or click the button to download the Policies and Guidelines Handbook.

The Symphony of the Mountains Youth Orchestra (SMYO) is an educational project directed and underwritten by the Symphony of the Mountains.

It consists of two honor ensembles for the most talented and dedicated young musicians of Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, North Carolina, and points beyond. They present a minimum of three concerts every season and consist of players up to an undergraduate level.

Students accepted into the SMYO will reap the following benefits:

The mission of the Symphony of the Mountains Youth Orchestra is to enrich the lives of participants by providing a professional environment for the study, preparation, and performance of symphonic music; to complement participation in school music programs; to encourage and advocate music and music education,  and to serve the community at large by providing high-quality performances.

Symphony of the Mountains Youth Orchestra Ensembles

Symphony of the Mountains Youth Orchestra (SMYO)
A full symphonic youth orchestra that performs orchestral repertoire ranging from standard classics to more contemporary selections.

Symphony of the Mountains Primo Orchestra (SMPO)
A string group focusing on the introduction of ensemble playing and techniques. The Primo Orchestra prepares concert repertoire independently and serves as a preparatory setting for students who want to become members of the Youth Orchestra.


Weekly rehearsals Thursdays
5:30-7 p.m. Primo Orchestra
6:30-8:30 p.m. Youth Orchestra

2 yearly full concerts (both orchestras)

1 yearly Youth for Youth Concert (Youth Orchestra Only)

Side by Side performances with Symphony of the Mountains and Voices of the Mountains

Benefit to the students

  • Perform challenging orchestral repertoire with colleagues who are equally enthusiastic and serious about music under the direction of a professional orchestral conductor
  • Receive free admission to masterclasses conducted by recognized professional soloists
  • Experience additional learning through sectionals with Symphony of the Mountains Musicians
  • Perform side by side concerts with Symphony of the Mountains and Voices of the Mountains
  • Full Orchestra Experience

Students accepted into the SMYO Primo will reap the following benefits

  • Preparation for youth orchestra
  • Receive ensemble playing experience
  • Improve intonation and sight-reading skills
  • Gain musical maturity

Season Auditions

Auditions for the SMYO are held during the summer for the upcoming season. Students submit a video of themselves playing the audition repertoire and will either be placed in the Youth Orchestra or given the opportunity to join the Symphony of the Mountains Primo Orchestra.

Youth Orchestra Audition Requirements

Students can be required to prepare a solo piece that indicates their ability, two scales (three octaves preferred), prepared excerpts from repertoire selected by the conductor, and sight-reading as selected by the conductor. Specific requirements will be listed on the Symphony website.

Mid-season Auditions and Registrations:

Youth Orchestra

Mid-season auditions are held by appointment only if openings occur in the Youth Orchestra. In rare circumstances, outstanding string players may have the opportunity to join the Youth Orchestra mid-year.

Primo Orchestra

This ensemble accepts additional students at mid-year. Please contact the Youth Orchestra Manager for information and audition scheduling.

Note: Since the commitment to the Symphony of the Mountains Primo Orchestra is for the entire season, only rarely will students placed in the SMPO be allowed to audition to move to the Youth Orchestra mid-season. A Symphony of the Mountains Primo Orchestra member may audition for the SMYO mid-year only if openings exist and if the Symphony of the Mountains Primo Orchestra conductor has recommended the student for the audition.

Membership Dues

Non-refundable dues for the Youth Orchestra and Primo Orchestra participants are $100 per student for the year, with a maximum of $300 per family, per year. Dues are payable at the first rehearsal. Please make checks payable to Symphony of the Mountains and include the musician’s name plus “for SMYO dues” on the memo line. Payments made at the audition will be held until placement notification. A limited number of full or partial scholarships are available that reduce or eliminate dues in cases of financial need. Please see the SMYO Manager.

Attendance Policy

Musicians are urged to attend all rehearsals. Each student’s absence negatively affects the ensemble, even if the student is well prepared individually.

Rehearsals are scheduled on Thursdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. for Primo musicians and 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for Youth Orchestra musicians. Musicians are responsible for checking in with the Youth Orchestra Manager (or designee), who will be taking attendance at a table outside the rehearsal room. In order to be marked ON TIME, musicians must arrive by 5:25 p.m.*/6:25 p.m.* respectively.
*LATE ARRIVAL or EARLY DEPARTURE from a rehearsal counts as ½ of an absence.
Percussionists need to arrive early enough to set up the percussion equipment before the start of rehearsal.

If a student misses more than two rehearsals in a semester, that musician is not as prepared as other colleagues and may be prohibited from performing in the concert. Musicians who miss more than two rehearsals may be required to re-audition for the conductor. They will be asked to show their proficiency by playing excerpts from the music being rehearsed. Only those musicians demonstrating that they have continued to practice and improve during the absence will be allowed to play the concert. Musicians who are not performing in the concert are encouraged to continue participating in rehearsals until the final rehearsal.

No one may miss either of the last two full rehearsals before a concert unless granted special permission by the SMYO or Primo Conductor.

SMYO Senior Concerto Competition

The competition is open to high school seniors currently in the SMYO and have played at least one semester in the Youth Orchestra before entering the competition.

Choice of repertoire must be approved in advance by the SMYO conductor.  All works must be for solo instrument(s) and orchestra. One movement of the chosen concerto is to be played.

Students interested in auditioning must contact the SMYO Manager before October 15th. Please email the SMYO Manager specifying your name, contact information, and proposed choice of work. Auditions will be held in December.

The judges may hear only a portion of each work. The winning solo will be played with the orchestra at the spring concert, but piano accompaniment may be used at the auditions. Each soloist must hire his/her own accompanist. Having an accompanist is not required to participate in the competition but is strongly suggested.

The SMYO Artistic Committee will judge the competition. All decisions are final.

Musicians’ Family Support Opportunities

The Symphony of the Mountains Youth Orchestra is a volunteer organization. Musicians’ families are asked to help with various things during the year. This helps to keep our organization’s dues at an affordable level.
Listed below are ways families can help.

Coordination Assistance

Assist the Manager by taking attendance, collecting dues, or doing other tasks as needed at various times.

Concert Reception Refreshments

A reception organized by the Women’s Symphony Committee is held after the fall and spring concerts to allow the musicians and audience to mingle and visit after the concert. Musician’s families are encouraged to sign up to provide cookies or some other treats for these receptions.

Inclement Weather Policy

In case of questionable weather on a rehearsal day, please check the symphony website for current rehearsal information. 

Concert Attire

In the event a musician arrives at the warmup dress rehearsal in attire that does not fit the guidelines, he or she will be asked to immediately make arrangements to retrieve the correct clothing.

Primo Orchestra

Men: Long-sleeved white dress shirt, dark necktie (not a bowtie), dark pants, dark shoes, dark socks (Dark = navy blue or black)

Women: Long or ¾ sleeved white blouse, dark dress or dark skirt below the knee, or dark slacks, dark shoes

No sneakers, jeans, short dresses, short skirts, or short sleeves.

Youth Orchestra

Men: Black Suit Coat and Pants, Long-sleeved white dress shirt, dark necktie or bowtie, black shoes, black socks.

Women: Black Dress (below the knee), or black blouse with a black skirt

(below the knee) or black slacks, black shoes.

No sneakers, jeans, short dresses, short skirts, or short sleeves.

Youth & Primo Orchestra

Rehearsal & Concert Schedule

Entertaining, Educating, Enriching

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