About Huntsville Youth Orchestra

Huntsville Youth Orchestra Details

The Huntsville Youth Orchestra (HYO) nurtures the musical, social and educational development of young musicians from the Tennessee Valley in an orchestral setting. HYO is dedicated to providing children and youth with a fun, musical experience and benefits/rewards that will last a lifetime. The programs instill cooperation, discipline and patience, developing young musicians into appreciative listeners and participants. Founded in 1961, HYO has three orchestras for auditioned students and four smaller groups for novice to intermediate level strings from elementary to high school aged youth. Chamber ensembles for seasoned players are available to play for private and public events. Under the direction of seven conductors, the orchestras of the Huntsville Youth Orchestra perform in a variety of settings, which include scheduled fall, winter and spring concerts, holiday and special performances. HYO also hosts the Tennessee Valley Music Festival each summer. Further information is available from the HYO Office: (256) 880-0622.

Goals – The Huntsville Youth Orchestra (HYO) is dedicated to providing children and youth with a fun, musical experience and benefits/rewards that will last a lifetime. The program instills cooperation, discipline and patience, developing young musicians into appreciative listeners and participants. The HYO was founded in 1961 by Russell Gerhart, founding conductor of the Huntsville Symphony, to provide a quality musical experience and pre-professional training through the performances of great symphonic literature. Students that participate in the HYO are expected to work hard and come to rehearsals prepared. In doing so, students develop great pride in their accomplishments while they continue to expand their love of great music.

Eligibility – Elementary through high school age youth who play an orchestral instrument and can read music are eligible to participate. With the exception of Novice Strings, which accepts beginners, students must participate in their school program or be enrolled in private lessons.

Auditions – Six different orchestral ensembles are offered to accommodate all levels of experience. Only the Huntsville Youth Symphony, Sinfonia and Philharmonia orchestras require auditions.

Orchestras, Ensembles and Programs

Huntsville Youth Symphony – The Huntsville Youth Symphony (HYS) is an advanced full orchestra open by audition to accomplished string, woodwind, brass, and percussion students from across the Tennessee Valley. The HYS is the premiere performing ensemble of the Huntsville Youth Orchestra and among the finest youth orchestras in the Southeast. The HYS performs frequently in a broad variety of concert settings. HYS is conducted by Joe Lee.

Sinfonia – The Sinfonia is an intermediate full orchestra open by audition to accomplished string, woodwind, brass, and percussion students from throughout the Tennessee Valley. String players wishing to audition for Sinfonia should be performing repertoire at the Suzuki Book 6 level (or equivalent), and should be enrolled in private lessons. Woodwind, brass and percussion students interested in auditioning for Sinfonia must possess strong music reading skills. The Sinfonia performs frequently in a wide variety of concert settings. Sinfonia is conducted by Joe Lee.

Philharmonia – The Philharmonia is an intermediate full orchestra open by audition to accomplished string students and wind and percussion students with at least one year of playing experience.  String players wishing to audition for Philharmonia should be performing repertoire at the Suzuki Book 3-4 level (or equivalent), possess intermediate music reading skills, and should be enrolled in private lessons.  Students are asked to bring their own music stands to rehearsals.  For performances, females wear white long sleeved blouses and long black skirts with black shoes and hose, and males wear white dress shirts with black pants and black shoes and socks. Bowties and cummerbunds are furnished by the HYO for concerts.  Philharmonia is conducted by Dr. Paul Vest.

Concert Orchestra – The Concert Orchestra is an intermediate level string orchestra for young string players with at least two years of experience. Concert Orchestra students continue to explore and develop skills and techniques essential for orchestral playing. This orchestra is designed to be a 2-4 year course. Students wishing to participate should be in Suzuki Book 3 level (or equivalent), and possess intermediate music reading skills. Concert Orchestra is conducted by Kelli Battraw.

Intermezzo Orchestra – The Intermezzo Orchestra is an elementary level string orchestra for young string players with at least one year of experience. Intermezzo Orchestra students begin to explore and develop skills and techniques essential to orchestral playing. Students who wish to participate should be studying from the second half of Suzuki book 1 or Book 2 level (or equivalent), and possess elementary music reading skills. Intermezzo Orchestrais is conducted by Kelli Battraw.

Novice Strings – The Novice Strings program is a beginning level course, and open to children with little to NO experience.  Novice Strings focuses on the development of elementary techniques, note reading, and the art of string playing.  Students are enrolled for the entire year at the beginning of Fall semester only.  Students may be admitted later in the academic year at the discretion of the instructor. Students are asked to bring their own music stands to rehearsals.  For concert dress for performances, please check with the conductor.  Instrument choices and rental will be discussed at the first rehearsal, and students will begin playing their instruments the following week. Novice Strings is conducted by Bethany Wing.

Chamber Ensembles – Members of the Youth Symphony and Sinfonia may participate in chamber music rehearsals and coaching while building camaraderie and advanced musicianship skills. Ensembles may perform at chamber concerts and community events.


Joseph Lee, conductor
, is currently the Music Director of the Huntsville Youth Orchestra, and conductor of the Huntsville Youth Symphony and the Sinfonia Orchestra. Mr. Lee is the Music Director of the Tennessee Valley Music Festival, Resident Conductor of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, Music Director of the Festival Internacional de Música Cobano (Costa Rica), and the Director of Music Ministries at East End United Methodist Church in Nashville, TN. He has led a diverse group of performers including Grammy award winning artists Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul, the world-famous Canadian Brass, the performers of Cirque de la Symphonie, Act of Congress, Riders in the Sky, Tony Award nominee Jodi Benson, and other Broadway stars including Gary Mauer, Julia Murney, Virginia Woodruff, Burke Moses, and many others.

Mr. Lee served on the conducting staff of the Sewanee Summer Music Festival from 2007-2011, and served as the conductor of the University Orchestra at Sewanee from 2011-2014.  In the Spring of 2011, Mr. Lee returned to his alma mater to serve a one-semester appointment at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Orchestra and Conducting, and currently serves on the faculty of the University of Alabama, Huntsville. In addition to his regular conducting activities, Mr. Lee frequently travels the Southeast US and Central America leading clinics, adjudicating band and orchestra festivals, and guest conducting. Originally a bassoonist and cellist, Mr. Lee has a passion for Eastern music and studies the Japanese shakuhachi and the Armenian duduk.

Mr. Lee has participated in music festivals and master classes both at home and abroad. In master class, he has studied with world-renowned instructors including Kenneth Keisler, Otto Werner Mueller, Christoph Eschenbach, Neeme Jarvi, Paavo Jarvi, David Hayes, and Duain Wolfe.  Mr. Lee graduated cum laude from Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music.  Conducting teachers and mentors include maestros Robin Fountain, Emelyn Bingham, Taavo Virkhaus, James Paul, and Carlos Miguel Prieto.

Dr. Paul Vest, Philharmonia conductor, is an administrator, musician, and accomplished athlete. Currently director of Heritage Preschool of Research Park, he also maintains active musicianship as a member of the Huntsville and Tuscaloosa Symphonies.

He has previously held positions in the Wheeling and Westmoreland Symphonies in Pennsylvania, as well as a faculty position at Universitas Pelita Harapan in Tangerang, Indonesia. Dr. Paul holds an undergraduate degree from Samford University, and graduate degrees from the University of Memphis.

An accomplished endurance athlete, Dr. Paul has cycled in the Alps, covered ultra-marathon distances on trails, and qualified for the Boston Marathon. He is married to Kaitlyn Vest, a fellow HSO cellist, and resides in Huntsville with their loveable rescue dog, Luna.

Kelli Battraw, a native of Arizona, received her Bachelor’s Degree from Arizona State University in Music Education, with an emphasis in string instruments.

After graduating, Kelli spent 4 years teaching elementary school orchestra in the Chandler, AZ school district. In that time she also had the opportunity to work with students in both district and state elementary orchestra festivals. Upon moving to Huntsville,Kelli began work as the Arts-in-Education Coordinator for the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, a position which she held for 3 ½ years.

Kelli has been teaching private string lessons since 1997, a passion she continues today.  She lives in Madison with husband, Aaron, and their three sons Adam, Hyrum, and Brigham and Spencer.

Bethany WingBethany Wing received a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Georgia at Athens.  She spent the next few years teaching middle school orchestra at East Cobb Middle school in Marietta, Georgia.   Later, she earned a Master of Arts degree from Tennessee Technological University.  She has enjoyed performing with many regional and local orchestras.

While in college, Mrs. Wing began teaching private violin and viola lesson which she continues, currently.  She and her husband, Frank, live in Madison with their three children, Connor, Emily, and Alex.


Huntsville Youth Orchestra 2019-2020 Season Sponsorships

Sponsorship of the Season

The James Cecil and Margaret G. Ashburn Foundation

Holiday Concert Sponsor (Oct. 20)

Redstone Federal Credit Union

HYO Winter Concert Sponsor (March 1)

In memory of Mark Anthony Cabrera

HYS Winter Concert Sponsor (March 8) 


Spring Concert Sponsor (May 17)

Dr. and Mrs. Dan Schrimpsher

Music Director, HYS, and Sinfonia Conductor, Joseph Lee

Sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. Douglas Csar

Philharmonia Conductor, Susan Mullen

Sponsored by Anne Sheaves

Concert and Intermezzo Conductor,  Kelli Battraw

Sponsored by Sanchez-Galvez family

Novice Strings Conductor, Bethany Wing

Sponsored by Sanchez-Galvez family

Percussion Sponsor

Lisa D’Agostino

Celesta Sponsor

Scout Pest Control

Student Sponsorships

Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Abrantes
Scott and Claudia Agnew
The Curtis Amacher Family
Alice and Bill Battle
Charles and Patty Baucum
Joe and Sylvia Bearden
Diego Bedoya and Ingrid Roig
Mr. and Mrs. Cole Bradford
Mr. and Mrs. Michael Brock
Ms. Shelby Brostrom
Jerry and Chenny Cargile
Andrew and Jen Case
Bernard Cassity
Check Castle
Marcia and Karl Christman
The Cooper Family
James and Mary Culberson
Mr. and Mrs. Gill Duykers
Friends of HYO
Dr. and Mrs. Daniel Fox
Andrew and Ashley Goens
The Gordon Family
Mr. and Mrs. William Hoffer
Kil-Hong and Yong-Ae Han
Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Holland
Brad and Pam Korb
Dr. Joshua Krasnow and Dr. Beverly Stickles
Mr. and Mrs. Louis Lafontant
Richard and Dawn McCann
Marion and Jane McClain
Mr. and Mrs. Chad McClain
Dr. and SSgt. Arthur I. McDowell
Pat and June McNew
Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Merrick
Mr. and Mrs. R. Scott Miskovish
Mixed Labs LLC
Mr. and Mrs. Boris Nodel
Mr. and Mrs. Ohja
Mr. and Mrs. Johnnie Pierce
David and Linda Polzin
Mr. and Mrs. Tom Richardson
Mr. and Mrs. David Rigby
Dr. and Mrs. Buford Rowe
Anne Sheaves
Allison Cassity Somers
Dr. Sunyung Song and Mr. Jungho Jung
Roberto and Autumn Taarea
Qi Wan and Sarah Qiao
Mr. and Mrs. Hwayoung Yoo
Ricky and Cindy Zalamea

Thank you to all of our community sponsors.  Without your support none of this would be possible!