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About Our Program

Participation in HYSO has been transformational for my student, Kaviya. Her playing ability has skyrocketed. Her newfound enthusiasm for music and playing the violin is unmeasurable. Her self-confidence is soaring.
— Courtney Park, Director of Strings at The Vivaldi Music Academy

The Houston Youth String Orchestra is excited to continue it’s journey in it’s second season as the string orchestra of Houston for children ages 5 and above (violin, viola, cello, double bass). Please stay tuned for our 2019-2020 application information. All details will be available no later than February 1, 2019. We will be offering our beginning orchestra program as well as an intermediate/advanced string ensemble program. The HYSO program provides students from kindergarten and beyond, an unparalleled music experience. Students are exposed to orchestra literature at the earliest of ages and are able to grow through a comprehensive program. Students are given the opportunity to perform concerts twice per year under the direction of Houston Symphony violinist, Kurt Johnson. All students have the opportunity to strengthen their listening, ensemble, and music theory skills during rehearsals.

Under the direction of Kurt Johnson, the HYSO is an entry-level orchestra for students with minimal orchestra ensemble experience. HYSO is a string-only group that focuses on teaching the basics of reading music and playing in an ensemble setting. The enrollment is kept smaller (20-25 students) to facilitate a closer teacher and student relationship. Conductor, Kurt Johnson, stresses concepts such as recognition of pitch, rhythmic accuracy, and basic ensemble skills.

  • Auditions are not required at this time for participation.

  • Acceptance of a position in the orchestra requires a $150 non-refundable deposit.

  • Rehearsals: Saturdays 10-11:30am

  • Skills of knowledge by Januaryof 2019: 3 scales with 2 octaves ascending and descending, 1st and 3rd position knowledge, Suzuki Book 2 or higher, full-clear tone

  • Required rehearsal materials: Adjustable wire music stand, instrument in good playing condition, HYSO folder and music, pencil, water bottle



Application and Tuition


Thank you to all that applied for the 2018-2019 season! We are currently accepting applications for the spring of 2019 on the following instruments; viola, cello, and double bass.

We are thrilled to see so much interest in the program! We will be posting 2019-2020 application information here in the winter of 2019. Please stay tuned regarding applications for our orchestras including an advanced string orchestra (audition necessary and without age limit).

 All information below pertains to the 2018-2019 spring season at the present time.

Application and private lesson teacher/music director letter of recommendation deadline is Nov. 20, 2018.

No audition is required at this time. However, letters of recommendation will be weighed heavily regarding acceptance into the program. 

20-25 positions will be available with the orchestra for the 2018-2019 season. Once all positions have been filled, we will keep a waitlist on file.

The applicant selection committee plans to accept students based upon date of application (first come first serve) and letter of recommendation. Students will be notified shortly thereafter. If you do not receive any information by Nov. 25, 2018,  please contact the HYSO office at 713-423-5073.

Please complete application online and submit teacher letter of recommendation via button below or postal mail to:

Colleen Johnson
Houston Youth String Orchestra
1011 Heights Blvd.  
Houston, TX  77008

If you have questions, please contact the friendly HYSO staff at 713-423-5073 or use our contact form below.


$150 deposit, payable by check, is due no later than 10 days after letter of notification is e-mailed to all accepted applicants for the fall of 2018 semester. This deposit will be applied to the remaining 1st semester balance of dues. Spring of 2019 payments are due in full by Dec. 5, 2018.

2018-2019 tuition of $700 is payable in two installments:

Installment Due Dates

  • June 20, 2018 ($200) and

  • November 1, 2018 ($350) (Current HYSO students)

  • Dec. 5, 2018 ($350) ( Beginning spring 2nd semester HYSO students)

This has been such a wonderful experience for Emily-an at just the right time. The opportunity to play with other kids and create music as part of an ensemble has been so motivating and rewarding for her...We couldn’t be happier with the experience we are all having and we are so grateful to have it happening right in our neighborhood!
— Leslie Winesett, parent of an HYSO student

About Kurt Johnson

Kurt Johnson has been a member of The Houston Symphony first violin section since 2001.  He received his master's degree in violin performance from Northwestern University and his bachelor's degree from Oberlin Conservatory. Mr. Johnson studied violin with Gerardo Ribeiro, Marilyn McDonald, David Taylor, Almita and Roland Vamos, as well as soloist Rachel Barton. While attending Northwestern, he was concertmaster of the Northwestern Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. He was also a member of The Grant Park Symphony in Chicago.  As a youth he was a winner of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra's concerto competition.

Mr. Johnson is also a baroque violinist. He performs regularly with The Ars Lyrica Ensemble in Houston and Camerata Ventepane in Mexico. In addition to playing the violin he is also an amateur trumpet player and proud father to his daughter, Allegra and son, Luke.

 Houston Youth String Orchestra - Kurt Johnson