The CYO on tour in Europe, 1980.
The CYO is recognized as one of the finest youth orchestras in the country. The ensemble has worked with such illustrious conductors as Mario Bernardi, Bramwell Tovey, Kasuyoshi Akiyama, Simon Streatfeild, Ivars Taurins, Jeanne Lamon, and Hans Graf, among others.
The CYO was founded in 1957 by the late Frank Simpson (right) as the Calgary Junior Philharmonic School Orchestra, with initial funding provided by the late John Bach, a previous Director of the Mount Royal Conservatory. In 1965, the orchestra joined the Conservatory, rehearsing at the Planetarium and in the old 9th Ave SW campus. When Mount Royal University moved to its present Lincoln Park Campus in 1973, the CYO moved along with the Conservatory.
In 1984, artistic direction for the CYO came under the umbrella of the Mount Royal Conservatory. The CYO is now the flagship ensemble associated with the Conservatory's Orchestral Program.
During the CYO's ours of France (2012) and Spain (2010), it was written:
“The Calgary Youth Orchestra of Canada created magical moments for music lovers... Under the direction of Edmond Agopian the young musicians transcended the music...”
“The connection between movements, the musical emphasis, the dynamic control of impeccable resolution, and the precise rhythmic beat, flavored with a good dramatic tempo, made the music a pleasure... The music was played with such sincere enthusiasm that it generated a rush felt by all...” (La Opinion de Granada-Critica)
The CYO has performed in collaboration with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Jeunesse Classique Ballet, at festivals throughout Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, and at the 2008 Juno Awards. It has been honoured to perform for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II (Calgary, May 2005), for the Council of the Federation (Banff, AB, Aug. 2005), and for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama (Calgary, Sept. 2009).
The CYO has commissioned works from a number of composers, most recently Canadian composers Michael van der Sloot, George Fenwick and Laurie Radford. It has also presented the world premiéres of works by Claude Debussy which were completed and orchestrated by the renowned English musicologist Robert Orledge.
CYO alumni can be found in such world-renowned ensembles as the Cleveland Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Barcelona’s Orchestra ’del Gran Teatre del Liceu,’ and all major Canadian orchestras. Many alumni have won prestigious national and international solo competitions, or are members of such renowned chamber ensembles as the Borromeo and Cassatt string quartets.
The CYO’s 2005 CD, The Thrill of the Western, received excellent reviews, including this one from Rick Phillips, CBC Radio’s Sound Advice:
“Imaginative interpretation... nicely pulled off... played to the fullest, with enthusiasm and energy... ”
- Frank Simpson, Founding Director (1963 – 1984)
- John Thompson (1984 – 1988)
- Nicholas Pulos (1988 – 1992)
- Tyrone Paterson (1992 – 1993)
- Dr. Glenn Price (1993 – 1995)
- John Thompson (1996 – 2002)
- Edmond Agopian (2002 – )