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Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra Crushes Musical Barriers

June 25, 2022 - by Sandy Vo

Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra Crushes Musical Barriers

Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra

Whether it’s listening to a favorite song with friends or watching a sold-out concert with strangers, musical experiences can transcend age, gender, and even languages. Since 1964, Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra (BYSO) has offered a positive and stimulating environment for Eastside youths through music programs, classes, live concerts, summer camps, and more.

Made up of six large orchestras and three smaller instrumental ensembles, BYSO hosts nearly 400 students during the academic year. Executive Director Kevin Vortmann said pursuing high-quality music education and performance opportunities often come at a price that not all can afford.

BYSO rehearsal at Northwest Art Center

“We’ve always set aside a significant financial assistance allowance to provide young musicians a chance to expand their musical experiences without worrying about the cost, but we can’t do it alone,” he said.

Donations and community partnerships are heavily relied upon. For the past year, Northwest Art Center, Bellevue Children’s Academy, and Lake Washington High School have graciously let BYSO use their space for concert rehearsals. Vortmann said these relationships are vital to keeping our programs going.

“It takes strategic relationships with the community, other nonprofits, and corporations to make it happen,” he said. “One of our long-lasting community partnerships we’re looking forward to this year is our annual appearance at the Bellevue Downtown Association’s 4th of July event.”

Next month marks BYSO’s 12th anniversary of participating at Bellevue Family 4th in Downtown Park. This year, more than 60 students will put on a resounding performance before, during, and after the fireworks show conducted by BYSO Music Director Theresa Metzger Howe. Their setlist will include popular film scores from Jurassic Park, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, How to Train Your Dragon, and more.

BYSO's 2013 performance at Bellevue Family 4th

“What I love the most about this event is the huge impact on our students and community," Vortmann said. "We’re not only breaking barriers for BYSO but also providing a spectacular concert for so many people at no cost and creating an accessible entry point for those who have never seen a live symphony before.”

Vortmann said that not being part of the Eastside’s 4th of July event due to the pandemic the last two years has been hard on the students.

“For some students, their performance at Bellevue Family 4th is the highlight of the year. BYSO’s comeback to the event will be a reminder that the traditions we had to put on hold during the pandemic are slowly returning,” Vortmann said. “When the orchestra plays their first note of music, it will be a moment of healing for those who have attended in the past.”

Vortmann is optimistic about the future of BYSO and believes there are many more opportunities to continue breaking down accessibility barriers and creating longtime relationships with those in the area.

“I think anytime that we can form partnerships with other businesses and organizations, it really strengthens and streamlines our ability to focus on our students’ needs versus our operational concerns,” he said. “To provide our students with all the resources they need to succeed is a win for us all.”

This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.


Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra
12310 NE 8th St
Bellevue, WA 98005

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