VYMA was founded in 2001 by a group of parents to supplement existing music education by offering ensemble opportunities for children preempted from joining an orchestra because of age, ability and/or financial means. 

VYMA’s goal is to provide inclusive, high quality music education by professional, performing musicians in a nurturing, fun, non-competitive setting. This approach has proven to be highly successful. Children with minimal training have achieved recognizably impressive standards of classical music excellence.

In April 21, 2001, within four months of its first rehearsal, the 30-member String Orchestra performed its inaugural concert at the Glendale Central Library under the direction of Samvel Chilingarian. This initial ensemble, ranging in age from 7 to 15 with varying levels of experience, soon blossomed into a full orchestra, adding winds, brass and percussion. As the orchestra grew, more tiers were added and more programs offered:  Chamber Ensembles (spring 2002), Jazz Ensemble (summer 2008), Summer Music Camp (summer 2009) and VYMA Music Project at Longfellow Elementary in Pasadena (fall 2009).

VYMA musicians have performed at numerous venues — among them, Pasadena Sexson Auditorium, Pasadena Bungalow Heaven, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (as part of the L.A. Philharmonic’s Symphonies for Youth) and Walt Disney Concert Hall (as an L.A. Philharmonic Youth Orchestra Partner), Glendale First Congregational Church, Pasadena’s Linda Vista Music Fair, Thorne Hall, Occidental College, Longfellow Elementary, Pacific Asia Museum (Pasadena Art Night) and the Association of California Symphony Orchestras 2012 Conference in Pasadena.

Our mission of inclusiveness and nurturing of young musicians inspired VYMA to embrace the philosophy of El Sistema, the now famed music education program that produced Gustavo Dudamel, the Music Director of the L.A. Philharmonic. A visionary global movement that transforms the lives of children through music and is a new model for social change, El Sistema has demonstrated the power of ensemble music to dramatically impact the life trajectory of youth while transforming the communities around them.

Given our commitment to our community and our dedication to serve overlooked children – especially those who have no or little access to music education – VYMA joined a network of stakeholders in the Youth Orchestra LA (YOLA) in November 2007, a Los Angeles Philharmonic initiative whose goal is to create El Sistema-inspired music programs in Los Angeles County. In December 2008, Music Director Samvel Chilingarian and then Board Vice-President Louise Ghandhi (now Chair Emiritus) traveled to Venezuela to study El Sistema, meeting with many of its teachers, conductors, young musicians and its inspiring founder, Maestro Jose Antonio Abreu.

In September 2009, VYMA launched VYMA Music Project at Longfellow, a community engagement program at Longfellow Elementary School, a Title I school in the Pasadena Unified School District. This program provides free instruments and free instruction to 100 Longfellow Elementary students after school. The program is supported by the parents through myriad in-kind support as well as our partners, PasadenaLEARNs and several generous donors and foundations. After only 10 weeks, the VYMA Music Project at Longfellow gave its spectacularly successful debut performance with a string orchestra and choir made up of first to sixth graders. This project is now being run by the Harmony Project.

Our collaborative efforts benefit the community while providing VYMA musicians with many enriching opportunities. This was most evident in February 2010 when we held the first annual Youth Orchestra Day in Pasadena, a combined performance of four youth orchestras: the Olympia Youth Orchestra, the Pasadena Young Musicians Association, the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra and VYMA. Each orchestra performed individually and collectively concluding the extraordinary event with 350 musicians playing the world premiere of The Net of Indra, composed for this occasion by Russell Steinberg.

Our collaboration with L.A. Philharmonic continued. In 2010 VYMA was named Emeritus Youth Orchestra Partner.  As such, our musicians were honored to host guest conductor Perry So, one of four ‘Dudamel Fellows.’

Going forward, VYMA is committed to impacting young musicians by providing them with a rich musical experience while offering opportunities for meaningful performances and community engagement while spreading the love of music among youth.