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Check back soon for 2022 application information

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.

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 2022 program will feature two ensembles: the Symphony Orchestra for musicians aged 14-18 and the Chamber Orchestra for musicians aged 12-14.

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

COVID-19 Update

Due to the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic’s continued effects, the full program and offerings of the 2021 YOLA National Festival will be announced on April 1, alongside audition results. The health and safety of our young musicians are our highest priorities, and our decisions will be dependent on guidance from the California Department of Public Health, the LA County Department of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While we still hope to safely create an in-person event in 2021, the YOLA National Festival is excited to confirm a series of online offerings for the young musicians accepted to the YOLA National Symphony and Chamber Orchestras. We continue to consider all options that would allow a safe return to in-person programming, but also look forward to building upon the digital offerings of this past summer’s YOLA National at Home event.

Application Information & Timeline

The application involves three core components:  

  1. A musical audition (2-3 excerpts and scales) 

  2. A personal statement (video) 

  3. A recommendation from a program manager or teacher

Once you have created your login on our application platform Acceptd, we suggest you download the application checklist below, begin practicing your required excerpts, and be sure to get support from a teaching artist or program manager for your musical audition and your personal statement. Instrument specific excerpts and details about the personal statement are available on our Audition Requirements page.

If you have any questions, please email

Application Timeline

Check back soon for information about the 2022 application timeline.

Eligibility Requirements

Young musicians applying for the YOLA National Festival must meet the program and age requirements in order to participate in the YOLA National Festival. 

Program Requirements

All applicants must be enrolled in an El Sistema-inspired program, or a program that is similarly invested in youth development practices. While each program operates differently, there are basic tenets which this Festival aims to support.

For full details about program eligibility, please download our Eligibility PDF. If you have any questions about whether your music learning program meets eligibility requirements, please email us at

Symphony Orchestra

High school musicians between the ages 14-18 can apply to the Symphony Orchestra. 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. 

Chamber Orchestra

Musicians aged 12-14 can apply to the Chamber Orchestra. Musicians who are 14 years old can either apply for the Symphony Orchestra to be considered for both Chamber and Symphony Orchestra or choose to apply only for the Chamber Orchestra. Excerpts for the Chamber Orchestra can be found on our Audition Requirements pageAll applicants should only submit one application, with one set of excerpts.

YOLA National Festival Staff


Gustavo Dudamel
Music & Artistic Director, Los Angeles Philharmonic

Additional conducting faculty will be announced as confirmed




Jennifer Grim, University of Miami, Associate Professor of Flute  


Claire Brazeau, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Principal Oboe; California State University Long Beach, Bob Cole Conservatory of Music, Oboe Faculty 


Mariam AdamChineke Orchestra and Chamber Ensemble, Principal Clarinet; International Soloist and musician 


Lecolion Washington, Community Music Center of Boston, Executive Director 

French Horn 

Annie BoslerUniversity of California Irvine, Lecturer, French Horn; El Camino College, Applied Music Instructor 


Herb Smith, Rochester Philharmonic


Burt Mason, Chamber Orchestra of New York, Principal Trombone, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Associate Musician, Juilliard Music Advancement Program, Trombone and Low Brass Instructor


Ruben Hernandez, San Diego Youth Symphony, OPUS, Teaching Artist 


Mariesther AlvarezBoston String Academy, Director, Violin Faculty; Longy School of Music of Bard College, Teacher Education 

Simon Bernardini, Berliner Philharmoniker 

Mellasenah Edwards, Baltimore School for the Arts, Music Department Head 

Benjamin HoffmanRedlands Symphony, Principal Second Violin; Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra 

Cosima Luther, YOLA at EXPO, Violin Teaching Artist 

Lauren Rausch, John Hopkins Peabody Preparatory, Director, Young People's String Program & Coordinator, Tuned-In Program 

Tiffany Rice, The Windsor School, Boston, MA, Director of Performing Arts and Music Faculty 


Chris Jenkins, Oberlin Conservatory, Associate Dean and Liaison to the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion 

James WoomertAtholton High School, Columbia, MD, Director of Orchestras 


Troy StuartJohn Hopkins Peabody Preparatory, Cello & Chamber Music Faculty 

Terrence ThornhillPaterson Music Project, NJ, Teaching Artist; Northern New Jersey Youth Orchestra, Assistant Conductor


David Connor, Houston Symphony Orchestra - Community Embedded Musician 

Chantal Incandela, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Press & Communications Manager

Top FAQs

For a full list of FAQ’s, please see the FAQ document linked in the above Student Application Materials section. If you have any further questions, please email