Athens Youth Symphony | providing the finest orchestral and performance opportunities for students in Northeast Georgia

The Mission

To provide the finest quality orchestral training and performance opportunities for students in the Northeast Georgia area.

The Beginning

On Sunday, April 1, 2001 at 4pm at the Oconee Civic Center, a brand new orchestra performed its premier concert. Through the effort of their director, Karl Schab, and a supporting cast of volunteer musicians, parents, and sponsors, the talented individual musicians were assembled into a unit that worked like a well-oiled machine. And all this was accomplished in an incredibly short period of time.

Just a few short months before, during the Autumn of 2000, the Athens West Rotary Club began working on an idea Walt Sanders proposed for sponsoring a music composition contest. The winning works would be performed by the local youth orchestra.... Only, there was no local youth orchestra! So the Rotarians decided to sponsor that first. The Athens Youth Symphony was the result.

The first auditions were on January 7, 2001. The first weekly rehearsals were held on January 28th. First Presbyterian Church in Athens donated (and continues to donate) rehearsal space free of charge to the orchestra.

There had been attempts at organizing youth orchestras in Clarke County schools in the past. But these were done on a volunteer basis by school string teachers and were open only to Clarke County students enrolled in their respective music classes at school. Many students could not take advantage of this ensemble opportunity, not to mention all the qualified music students attending private, home schools, or schools in other counties.

AYS is open to all musically-qualified students in grades 6-12, regardless of geographic location. The membership includes musicians from several counties including Barrow, Clarke, Jackson, Morgan, Oconee, Stephens, and Wilkes counties.


The debut concert program included works by Sibelius, Bizet, and Haydn. The repertoire was chosen to represent several styles, to fit the instrumentation available to the group, and to give the students good, interesting music to play that would challenge and stimulate them. The orchestra was joined by the Concert Strings in playing the Star-Spangled Banner. The national anthem is traditionally performed by orchestras at the opening of each concert season.

The many parents, friends and relatives truly enjoyed themselves!

Thanks for your support...

We are grateful for the support of the following:

The Athens West Rotary Club Youth Service Committee for their assistance in making the dream of a local orchestra a reality.

First Presbyterian Church of Athens has been kind enough to donate their facilities free of charge for rehearsals.

The University of Georgia Office of Performing Arts for co-sponsoring our fall and spring concerts each season.

We would also like to thank the AYS Board, parent volunteers, and our financial contributors who are all working together to establish AYS as a vibrant and financially sound non-profit organization in this community for years to come.

The musicians! Each season we continue the process of finding the necessary musicians for AYS from the surrounding area. The response has been astounding with musicians responding from locations up to an hour drive away. Once each fall and spring we continue to enjoy the result of all this organizing, planning and rehearsing.