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An intensive summer learning program and top-tier ensemble, the YOLA National Festival is an opportunity for young musicians from Sistema-inspired programs and programs similarly invested in youth and community development through music.

2020 applications are now open! Find application link and materials below.

Musicians convene each summer in Southern California for a two-week period of learning and performance with world-renowned conductors and artist mentors. Participation is free—travel, lodging, meals, and programming are provided to students at no cost. The 2020 program will feature two ensembles: the Symphony Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra.

The festival’s ultimate aim is to create a civically-minded community of young musicians from diverse regions across the country, while developing a model for excellence that will positively shape progressive music education nationwide.

To learn more about eligibility and the application process, read below or email


Application Information & Timeline

The application involves three core components: a musical audition, a personal statement, and a recommendation from a program manager or teacher. Once you have created your login and started your 2020 application, we suggest you download the application checklist below, begin practicing your required excerpts, and start thinking about your personal statement. If you have any questions, please email

Start Your Application


Application Timeline

December 6, 2019

Audition repertoire posted

February 3, 2020

Applications close

February 10, 2020

Recommendations due

March 2, 2020

Notifications distributed to applicants

YOLA National Institute (YNI) applications open to select musicians of the YOLA National Symphony Orchestra

March 16, 2020

YNI Applications close

April 1, 2020

YNI Notifications distributed to applicants

June 30 – July 12, 2020

YOLA National Festival

Additional YOLA National Institute dates to be determined. Check back soon for further updates!

Eligibility Requirements

Young musicians applying for the YOLA National Festival must meet the program requirements and age requirements in order to participate. For full details about program eligibility, please download our Eligibility PDF. All students must be enrolled in a music program that is directly inspired by El Sistema, or is similarly invested in youth empowerment. While each program operates differently, there are basic tenets which this Festival aims to support. Additionally, musicians must meet the age requirements for each orchestra.  

All applicants should only submit one application, with one set of excerpts.

Symphony Orchestra

High school musicians between the ages 14-18 may apply to the 100-member Symphony Orchestra. This is a highly competitive ensemble, open to the most advanced players from Sistema-inspired and aligned programs from across the country. Excerpts for the Chamber Orchestra can be found on our Audition Requirements page. Applicants who are 14 years old and apply to the Symphony Orchestra will automatically be considered for the Chamber Orchestra.

Chamber Orchestra

Musicians aged 12-14 are eligible for the Chamber Orchestra. Musicians who are 14 years old can either apply for the Symphony Orchestra, and be considered for both orchestras, or choose to apply only for the Chamber Orchestra. Excerpts for the Chamber Orchestra can be found on our Audition Requirements page.



Expanded Chamber Orchestra & YOLA National Institute

Formerly a string orchestra, this year’s Chamber Orchestra program offers wind and brass musicians the opportunity to become part of a national orchestra of musicians from across the country.

This year, select musicians of the YOLA National Symphony Orchestra will be eligible to apply to the YOLA National Institute's second cohort! The program aims to support young musicians interested in pursuing a career in music, offering the opportunity to learn from artists, creative projects, and each other. Check back for further information! 


Check back soon for more information about special performances, rehearsals, and venues!

Los Angeles, CA Walt Disney Concert Hall


Gustavo Dudamel Music & Artistic Director, Los Angeles Philharmonic
Soo Han Chamber Orchestra Conductor, Director of Orchestral Activities, Baldwin Wallace Conservatory


Jennifer Grim Flute, University of Miami, Associate Professor of Flute
Claire Brazeau Oboe, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Principal Oboe, CSU Long Beach, Bob Cole Conservatory of Music, Oboe Faculty
Mariam Adam Clarinet, Chineke Orchestra and Chamber Ensemble - Principal Clarinet, International Soloist and Musician
Lecolion Washington Bassoon, Community Music Center of Boston, Executive Director
Annie Bosler French Horn, UC Irvine - Lecturer, French Horn, El Camino College - Applied Music Instructor
Herbert Smith Trumpet, Rochester Philharmonic
Burt Mason Trombone, Chamber Orchestra of New York, Principal Trombone, Greenwich Village Orchestra, Principal Trombone, Juilliard Music Advancement Program, Trombone and Brass Lab Faculty
Ruben Hernandez
Percussion, San Diego Youth Symphony, OPUS, Teaching Artist
Mariesther Alvarez Violin, Boston String Academy, Director, Violin Faculty; Longy School of Music of Bard College, Teacher Education
Simon Bernardini Violin, Berliner Philharmoniker
Mellasenah Edwards Violin, Baltimore School for the Arts, Music Department Head
Benjamin Hoffman Violin, Redlands Symphony, Principal Second Violin; Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, Violin
Cosima Luther Violin, YOLA at EXPO, Violin Teaching Artist
Lauren Rausch Violin, John Hopkins Peabody Preparatory, Director, Young People's String Program & Coordinator, Tuned-In Program
Tiffany Rice Violin, The Windsor School, Boston, MA, Director of Performing Arts and Music Faculty
Chris Jenkins Oberlin Conservatory, Associate Dean and Liason to the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
James Woomert Viola, Atholton High School, Columbia, MD, Director of Orchestras
Troy Stuart Cello, John Hopkins Peabody Preparatory, Cello & Chamber Music Faculty
Terrence Thornhill Cello, Paterson Music Project, NJ, Teaching Artist; Northern New Jersey Youth Orchestra, Assistant Conductor
David Connor Bass, Houston Symphony Orchestra - Community Embedded Musician
Chantal Incandella Bass


Top FAQs

For a full list of FAQ’s, please see the FAQ document linked in the above Student Application Materials section.