Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra looks ahead to 2023-24 season

Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra has a large contingent of students from North County.
(Copyright of Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra)

Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra now holds rehearsals in Solana Beach


Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra is gearing up for the registration period for its 2023-24 season.

“We are now in North County,” said Joseph Shanks, the youth orchestra manager. “For years we were at Mesa College, and during Covid with the loss of venue and all that, we transitioned up to North County, which is unique because unless you’re up in Escondido, we’re the only youth orchestra in the region.”

The youth orchestra serves about 300 students, including almost half who are from Solana Beach, Del Mar and Carmel Valley. There are seven ensembles to accommodate student musicians of all skill levels. Students who want to join have to go through an audition process in the spring or fall.

About 30 years ago, Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra began as the San Diego Young Artists Symphony, according to the orchestra’s website. About 10 years ago, San Diego Young Artists Symphony merged with Mainly Mozart and was renamed the Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra.

“Our goal is education,” said Shanks, who completed a B.A. in music at California Polytechnic University and a master of music degree in viola performance from San Diego State University. “That’s our primary purpose, is providing the highest quality orchestral music education opportunities.”

Students from each ensemble attend weekly rehearsals every Saturday in Solana Beach.

“It ranges from brand new players, who never touched an instrument before, all the way up to our advanced orchestra, which is mostly high schoolers,” Shanks said. “That group plays real symphonic music. They just played Dvořák’s ninth symphony in our last concert. They’re very good, and a lot of our students go off to music schools or just continue music throughout their lives.”

The music director is Hernan Constantino, a member of the San Diego Symphony for the last 30 years. Other instructors also bring an extensive amount of musical experience in education and performance.

Each season runs from approximately the same timeframe as the school year, with each ensemble performing twice.

Upcoming events include the rising stars and seniors showcase on April 29 at Kristin Greene Recital Hall in Miramar and the Bach Brandenburg Concertos on May 16 at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carlsbad.

“We would love to eventually be able to tour, take the advanced group to Disney or New York,” Shanks said. “Those are long-term goals for sure.”

Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra holds regular Saturday rehearsals at Calvary Lutheran Church, located at 424 Via De La Valle in Solana Beach. For more information about upcoming registration and other orchestra events, visit Also, see more information below regarding spring auditions:

Auditions for Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra

Spring auditions are coming up for student musicians applying for the Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra.

Auditions for the 2023-24 season take place April 13-15, when students submit videos of required audition material. Each student records three videos: performing scales, doing a solo piece, and performing excerpts from orchestral pieces chosen by the MMYO instructors.

Auditions are for placement into Beginning Strings (ages 6-10), Intermediate Strings (ages 10-12), Intermediate Orchestra/Concert Band (ages 11-16), and Advanced Orchestra (ages 13- 18).

The sign-up window for Suzuki Stars (K-3) also opens April 13. No audition is required. Suzuki Stars provides group class instruction for beginner violin, viola and cello students. Students learn the basics of holding and playing their instruments.

Visit; the link goes live April 13 for students to submit videos.

— Laura Groch, from The San Diego Union-Tribune, contributed to this report