Are you interested in joining the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony or Classical Orchestra? Auditions for both ensembles are held each May for the following season.

Coronavirus-Related Changes in 2020

  • Because of the coronavirus outbreak, we are changing how auditions will take place for the 2020-2021 season. Instead of attending in-person auditions, we are asking students to upload a video of their prepared audition piece on or before May 26 (this date is later than originally planned) and to schedule an online appointment with our conductor to perform sight-reading and scales. Please review the information below carefully. If you have questions, please contact us at 616-842-6566 or
  • Current students: If you are a current member and wish to stay in your current orchestra in 2020-2021, you must log into the audition site by May 18 and follow the instructions to claim your spot for next year!


Students are eligible to audition if they are:

  • Between the ages of 12 and 21.
  • A member of their school band and/or orchestra or a comparable program for homeschoolers. (School band and orchestra leaders: Read this letter from Conductor John Varineau to you.)
  • Prepared to commit to the rehearsal and concert schedule. (Wind players: Monday evening rehearsals may conflict with marching band schedules. Conflicts are normally resolved between school band directors and the GRYS conductor.)

There is only one audition for the two groups:

  • Classical Orchestra members typically must re-audition each season. This year, however, members who want to remain in the Classical Orchestra do NOT have to re-audition — but they should contact John Varineau at AND log into the audition site by May 18 and follow the instructions to claim their spot for next year.
  • Youth Symphony members typically must re-audition after their first year but generally not after their second year and beyond. This year, however, we are NOT requiring current Youth Symphony members to re-audition, even if they have been a member only one year — but we ARE asking them to log into the audition site by May 18 and follow the instructions to claim their spot for next year. (Current students would have to re-audition if they wish to change to a different instrument.)

Audition Process*

*This is a special process for the 2020-2021 season only. Here are the steps to follow:

1 –> Complete the audition application: The application deadline was May 18, 2020 and has now passed. A $20 audition fee is required, payable by PayPal or credit/debit card.

2 –> Submit a video recording of your prepared piece no later than May 26, 2020: See below for details about the prepared solo or etude for your instrument (note special instructions for percussionists below). You will find detailed instructions on the audition site after you’ve registered. In summary: Please record a video of yourself performing your prepared piece — with a clock in the background so we can see that the performance was recorded in a single take. Upload the video file to our audition website. We will convert your video file to an audio file to keep your audition anonymous.

3 –> Participate in a virtual audition for scales and sight-reading: To complete your audition, you will need to participate in a brief online appointment with our conductor, John Varineau. He will ask you to perform a few memorized scales (see below for the requirements) and to perform a sight-reading excerpt that he will provide. He will contact you to schedule your appointment after you have uploaded your prepared piece video.

For Strings, Winds, and Harp

1. Prepared solo or etude:

  • 3 to 5 minutes in length (without piano accompaniment) — work with your private lesson instructor to select an appropriate piece; select the portion of the piece that best showcases your abilities
  • NO extra copy of the music is needed for the audition judge
  • Solo does not have to be memorized

2. Sight-reading (provided at the virtual audition)

3. Memorized scales:

  • Major: C, G, D, A, E, F, Bb, Eb, Ab
  • Melodic minor: A, E, B, F#, C#, D, G, C, F
  • Chromatic scale
  • Scale sheets/books are NOT allowed

For Percussion

NOTE: For the 2020-2021 season, percussion auditions will be by special arrangement with the Youth Symphony conductor and will NOT involve an uploaded video. Proficiency on the following instruments is desirable but not mandatory: timpani, snare drum, multiple percussion, mallets.

1. Prepared performance:

  • Short solo on timpani, snare drum, multiple percussion, and/or mallet (concert type, not rudimental or drum set) — NO extra copy of the music is needed for the audition judge; solo does not have to be memorized
  • Long roll on timpani and snare: soft to loud to soft

2. Sight-reading (provided at the audition)

3. Memorized scales

  • Major scales: C, F, Bb, G, D — on mallets (xylophone or marimba)

After Your Audition

  • Our conductor/music director places students according to the quality of their recorded audition.
  • You will receive a letter notifying you of your audition results in June or July. String players may be placed in either the Classical Orchestra or the Youth Symphony. (Chair assignments are determined three times during the season by chair auditions.)
  • IF YOU RECEIVE A LETTER OF INVITATION to the GRYS or Classical Orchestra, be sure to do the following to complete your membership:
    1. Return to the audition site and fill out the commitment and information form.
    2. Pay your $200 tuition fee via PayPal (note that tuition assistance is available)