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Students applying for the National Symphony Orchestras must meet program and age requirements in order to be eligible to participate. These requirements are explained below.

Program Requirement:
Students must be enrolled in a music program that is either directly inspired by El Sistema, or in a program similarly invested in youth empowerment. While each El Sistema‐inspired or aligned program operates differently, there are basic tenets associated with such programs which this Festival aims to support. All programs must meet at least 5 of the following 8 criteria below:

  1. Students are playing music on their primary orchestral instrument in the program for at least 5 hours per week.

  2. Central to the mission of the program is music as a vehicle for social change and youth or community development.

  3. Programming is free or full scholarships are given to at least 80% of all students.

  4. The program provides a multi‐year commitment to students, offering support from childhood through the end of high school and/or adulthood.

  5. The program emphasizes ensemble‐based orchestral programming (students are learning in groups).

  6. Students’ success is evaluated not only on musical progress, but also on behavioral development.

  7. The program has key individual or institutional partners that provide expertise in music, community, youth, and social development.

  8. The program is a member of a national or regional organization that is a network for self‐identified El Sistemainspired programs (for example: El Sistema USA).

Age Requirement:

  1. Symphony Orchestra: High school musicians between the ages 14‐19 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 Symphony 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.

  2. 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. If you have questions regarding student/program eligibility, please contact