In 2002, following a decade of planning, the Youth Orchestra of the Americas (YOA) auditioned its first group of performers, with NEC as a founding partner, Jordan Hall as its rehearsal location and its touring point of departure, and NEC students among the orchestra members. This was the first youth orchestra to bring together North, South, and Central America through youth, musical education, and cultural interaction.
YOA embarked on a three-week tour of the Americas in its debut season, and has continued to re-form and tour annually. In July 2009, NEC sponsored four Boston-area YOA concerts as part of the orchestra's summer tour of North America. Seventy-five of the most talented young musicians from across the Western Hemisphere, joined by world-class conductors, faculty, and guest artists, embarked on an international tour of concerts and community outreach programs. In Boston, there were concerts in NEC's Jordan Hall and at the Hatch Shell.
YOA is much more than great music. It touches the lives of youth and families in underserved communities. It inspires arts, business and government leaders. It performs in the world’s most prestigious concert halls and sacred spaces – Oriental Arts Centre Shanghai, Saint Peter's Basilica Vatican, Symphony Center Chicago, Teatro Teresa Carreño Caracas, Teatro Colón Buenos Aires, Konzerthaus Berlin, Palacio de Bellas Artes Mexico City, Philharmonie im Gasteig Munich, Snap Maltings Concert Hall Aldeburgh, and The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington DC, WolfTrap National Park for the Performing Arts, to name a few. YOA guest artists include Plácido Domingo, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, Valery Gergiev, James Ehnes, Lorin Maazel, Kent Nagano, Leonard Slatkin, Gabriela Montero, Louis Lortie, Cristina Gallardo-Domâs and Paquito D’Rivera, among others.
Since its Inaugural Tour, YOA has performed over 350 concerts for audiences in the Americas and Europe – in Argentina, Belize, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, England, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, México, Panamá, Nicaragua, Perú, United States, Uruguay, Vatican (see photo with Helmut Rilling conducting YOA in November 2008), and Venezuela. YOA has reached over 12 million people through television & radio broadcasts, CD recordings, print media coverage, and documentary films on the orchestra’s formation, mission and programs.