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The Santa Monica Youth Orchestra (SMYO) is a non-profit organization that strives to promote socioeconomic and cultural diversity through music programming. SMYO rethinks community in three central ways:

  1. By doing away with tuition and auditions, the orchestra facilitates participation among individuals from underrepresented groups.
  2. By supplementing hierarchal and authoritarian teaching practices with peer mentoring, it models an egalitarian approach to social life in which young people practice “listening” to one another, working together in “harmony.”
  3. By programming Jazz, Latin American, Near Eastern and West African repertoire alongside European orchestral classics, it “opens the ears” of its participants and audiences to the rich heterogeneity of world cultures.


SMYO is a socioeconomically and culturally diverse community providing accessible, high quality music education and collaborative opportunities that embody the global character of LA and incorporate all participants into its musical life.


SMYO uses music to create and shape community where young people of all means and backgrounds have the opportunity to learn and participate in rich musical experiences. Inspired by the El Sistema model, the orchestra strives to encourage cross-cultural understanding, cooperation, and peer mentorship among its participants.