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American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra Prelude Strings
ArtsFairfax Project Support Grant Recipient
ArtsFairfax connects you to all things arts in Fairfax County, the City of Fairfax, and the City of Falls Church. We believe that arts and culture activities transform and empower our communities. In the months ahead, discover the good work of this year’s ArtsFairfax Project Support Grant recipients.
Meet Dr. Graham Elliott, Executive Director of American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra , one of the nation’s leading youth orchestra organizations.
ArtsFairfax: Tell us about American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra (AYPO).
Elliott: AYPO was founded in 1964 and our mission is to provide the highest quality musical experience that allows our students to grow as musicians and individuals who then contribute to our nation’s cultural landscape as they become future artistic and community leaders.
Each year, AYPO provides conservatory-quality orchestral training and the full symphonic performance experience—opportunities that are rarely available in schools. Our flagship, nationally acclaimed American Youth Philharmonic performers major repertoire at a near professional level.
Our orchestras have performed with world-renowned artists including clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, trumpet virtuoso Arturo Sandoval, pianists Awadagin Pratt and Sarah Wolfensohn, guitarist Manuel Barrueco, conductors Gianandrea Noseda and Leonard Slatkin, and The Ahn Trio.
AYPO students have appeared at the major concert halls in the region and beyond, including the Kennedy Center, Music Center at Strathmore, Clarice Smith Center, Schlesinger Concert Hall, Hylton Performing Arts Center, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall and, most recently, the newly-opened Capital One Hall in Tysons, Virginia.
Since 2007, the Catalogue for Philanthropy has recognized AYPO as one of the best small charities in greater Washington.
ArtsFairfax: Amazing. What can you share about these talented young musicians?
Elliott: We work with more than 600 talented musicians between ages 7-19 from the greater Washington, D.C., region. Nearly 70% of AYPO students identify as people of color, and this diversity is reflected in our audiences.
Students progress through the increasing levels of difficulty of our orchestras. Over nine months, they attend 2-2.5 hour-long evening rehearsals, working with their conductor and participating in 160 sectionals with nationally recognized musicians and educators, including members of the National Symphony Orchestra.
Every year, 100% of our high school seniors continue on to college. Students who received tuition assistance enabling them to participate in AYPO’s orchestras have gone on to study at Carnegie Mellon, Harvard, The Juilliard School, Johns Hopkins, Manhattan School of Music, Princeton, Stanford and other outstanding institutions.
ArtsFairfax: Okay, so tell us about AYPO’s Prelude Strings.
Elliott: This group answers the need for an opportunity for younger string players to gain expert guidance in ensemble playing. It’s an entry-level program that enables our youngest musicians to prepare for the more formal graded orchestral programs offered by AYPO.
We created Prelude Strings out of the sheer demand for places in the existing six orchestras, and it offers an opportunity for less experienced 7-year-olds to discover the challenges and joys of playing with their peers.
Finally, the program also provides an avenue for underserved children brought into AYPO via our growing outreach activity and commitment to the principles of equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility (EDIA).
ArtsFairfax: What drives your commitment to EDIA values?
Elliott: I have a passionate belief that music is ‘owned’ by all, regardless of economic or social status. All children deserve to discover their innate musical ability and engage in a life-enhancing opportunity such as provided by AYPO.
Our community has such extraordinary richness with a mix of ethnicities and circumstances, and music is a way to bring people together and enrich the lives of the thousands of young musicians who have passed through AYPO in its 59 years.
ArtsFairfax: Where can people find AYPO?
Elliott: Our seasons run from September through May. We present 30 or more concerts which are open to the public, and information about the programs are available on our website: AYPO.org.
Dr. Graham Elliott joined AYPO in 2014 following an extensive global search. An internationally acclaimed music director, composer, academic, author and executive, Dr. Elliott manages all AYPO activities and leads the organization’s future growth and development as one of nation’s preeminent orchestral training programs. His responsibilities encompass operational management of all AYPO programs, as well as fundraising and management of external partnerships, outreach programs, and other key relationships. Dr. Elliott successfully led the Prince of Wales North Highlands Initiative, a program in the United Kingdom designed to invigorate the cultural and economic life of the Scottish Highlands. A noted organist and choirmaster, he holds a bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of London and a master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Wales. He also holds the prestigious FRCO, FTCL, FLCM, Hon FGCM, ARAM, and ARSCM diplomas.