Founded in 1972, the InterSchool Orchestras of New York makes it possible for any child to learn an instrument and perform in an ensemble of his/her peers. Eight graded orchestras and a symphonic band lie at the heart of ISO’s programs, providing performance opportunities based on musical ability — not ability to pay tuition. More than half of our young musicians receive some degree of financial assistance. We make it possible for students without prior access to an instrument or music lessons to get started on an instrument through free instrument introduction fairs, loans of instruments, and free music lessons.
We also believe in the power of mentorship and the pursuit of excellence. Coaches rehearse and perform alongside our students in all ensembles. The six-to-one student-to-coach ratio is likely better than most students will experience in any other educational situation. Our best students can become teachers to beginners through a teaching internship program. This develops the interns as teachers, provides them with meaningful community service, and helps educate the next generation of musicians.
ISO ensembles share their music with the community, performing at senior centers, churches, parks, and schools. It is particularly powerful when an ensemble of 6- to 10-year olds performs for students of similar ages.
Playing music in an orchestra fosters a cooperative spirit, demonstrates that there is more than one valid interpretation of an idea, enhances students’ empathy for others, improves self-esteem, explores emotions, and makes students familiar with other cultures and periods of history. Whether students pursue careers in music or not, the ISO experience is something that makes a difference for their entire lives.
The InterSchool Orchestras of New York’s programs are made possible in part with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; and many generous foundations and individuals.