After a long hot summer stuck inside with nothing to do, borderland students of all ages once again have an opportunity for extracurricular expression – the El Paso Symphony Youth Orchestra.

The long-running staple of El Paso is, like many things this year, moving to a virtual format – at least for the time being. EPSYO will continue to support a love of music and instill a passion for performance in the hearts of students across El Paso – and hopefully help them get ahead in life long after school has ended.

“One thing that a lot of people don’t realize is when kids apply to college, things like EPSYO help them to get admitted,” said Ruth Ellen Jacobson, the symphony’s executive director. “It opens up a huge ability to get music scholarships which are available at most schools. One-hundred percent of the kids that finish the youth orchestra go on to some higher learning.”

Jacobson said that despite the hardships brought on by the pandemic, the symphony – and the music that it helps perpetuate – is essential in times of trouble. 

“When you go through times of stress, there’s nothing like music to change your mood or give you something else to do. The satisfaction of playing beautiful music for yourself or someone else is incredible. There are a lot of benefits from playing an instrument – any instrument,” she said. “Even if a student goes on to other things in life, they always have the music. That’s a lifetime ability that they can always use join a band, an orchestra, or just play for their own enjoyment.”

All students ages 8-22 are encouraged to audition for the EPSYO.

While the program normally takes place in conjunction with the school year (from August through May) on the weekends, students this year can apply at and request an audition on a day most convenient for them.

Tryouts will be held virtually: students will be asked to play a scale, a short (two or three minute) piece of music and be asked to sight read a short piece of music.

That will determine in which EPSYO group the student will be placed. 

When a student has an audition, it’s not a matter of whether or not they’ll be accepted – every student that tries out will be accepted into the symphony – it’s only a matter of which group they’ll be placed in to best suit their level of playing.

Once the pandemic begins to show signs of lifting, Jacobson said EPSYO will slowly move back to normal practices, with at first students possibly gathering in outdoor areas such as parks with requisite social distancing.

“Our goal is to start doing concerts again in the spring and return to in-person playing once everything is safe,” she said. “Wouldn’t that be great?”


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