In its support of music education in the area, the Kingston Symphony Association has created and maintains three youth music ensembles.

The Kingston Youth Orchestra and String Ensembles have long-held a place in the history of the Kingston musical community. The Youth Orchestra was established in 1968 by local violinist Ed Bartlett who conducted the Orchestra until 1974. Leadership passed on to Queen’s University music professor Clifford Crawley (1974-79) and then to KSA members Jim Coles (1979-96) and Gordon Craig (1996-2018). Over the years the Kingston Symphony Association took over administration of the orchestra and the partnership has seen excellent growth and opportunities for Kingston Youth Orchestra members including trips throughout Ontario and a stint at hosting the Ontario Youth Orchestra Festival in 2001. The Kingston Symphony Association also added two additional string ensembles to the organization to form the Kingston Youth Orchestras. The 2018-2019 season marked the 50th anniversary of the Kingston Youth Orchestra. A milestone made possible only as a result of the strong and consistent leadership it has enjoyed over the years from the conductors mentioned above and from string coaches Robert (R.J.) Clark, Don Dawson, Doug Rooks and Gisèle Dalbec-Szczesniak to name a few.

In the 2018-2019 season, their first with Music Director Hugh Johnston, the Kingston Youth Orchestra received a very high standing in the Kingston Kiwanis Music Festival and was invited to perform in the Festival Highlights Concert at The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. They also qualified as finalists in the Ontario Music Festivals Association provincial festival and came first in their class. This strong season will, undoubtedly, propel the Kingston Youth Orchestra into future successes in the years to come.

Currently the Kingston Youth Orchestras are made up of three ensembles; the Kingston Youth Orchestra, Youth Strings and A-Strings and are comprised of approximately 60 musicians who come from Kingston and the surrounding area. They meet for weekly rehearsals at Frontenac Secondary School, have sectionals with Kingston Symphony coaches, and perform concerts throughout the year; often featuring Principal players in the orchestra as soloists


Many alumni of the Kingston Youth Orchestra, as well as being successful in other fields, have gone on to pursue careers as professional musicians and remain active in music as members of community orchestras and ensembles. Our musical alumni include solo performers, symphony musicians, music educators, musicologists and Masters and Doctoral Candidates in Music as well as doctors, engineers, teachers and other academia.


  • Meet and perform with other young musicians in the Kingston area
  • Rehearse and perform great repertoire
  • Workshops and coaching from Kingston Symphony members and visiting artists
  • Attend open rehearsals of the Kingston Symphony
  • Compete in local and regional music festivals
  • Perform in some of Kingston’s finest concert venues


The Kingston Youth Orchestra includes over 70 hours of professional coaching and rehearsals from September to May, concerts/workshops/sectionals/open rehearsals with the Kingston Symphony/Kiwanis Festival/fully equipped rehearsal venue/sheet music and music folder provided. Time off at Christmas, January high school exam time, March break.


Tuition for the Youth Orchestras is partially funded by the Kingston Symphony Association and as such are quite reasonable and there are family discounts:
Kingston A-Strings $125
Kingston Youth Strings $175
Kingston Youth Orchestra $225
(September to May)

KYO 50

The 2018-19 season marked the 50th year of the Kingston Youth Orchestra which was started in 1968 by violinist and educator Edouard Bartlett.


In 2001, while under the Musical Direction of Gordon Craig and the Management of Linda Craig, the Kingston Youth Orchestra hosted the 10th Ontario Youth Orchestra Festival and welcomed over 300 young musicians from across Ontario and Maestro Kazuyoshi Akiyama to the podium at Grant Hall, Queens University. 


The Kingston Youth Orchestra placed first in the Community Youth Orchestra class at the Ontario Provincial Music Festival in 2019, adjudicated by Conrad Chow.


The membership in the Kingston Youth Orchestras has come from every school in the Kingston area and many in the surrounding area. The Kingston Youth Orchestra has seen numerous exchange students in its ranks over the years. Notably, in 2018, two students from Germany who infused their great talents into our string section.


The Kingston Youth Orchestra consists of the Youth Orchestra, Youth Strings, and A-Strings.