High school strings

A dynamic program serves intermediate through advanced High School Students. Students are placed in one of two levels of orchestra based on their application.

Classes run from 9:00-2:00. Optional electives may extend the day.

The Sun Valley Youth Orchestra

The Sun Valley Youth Orchestra is the centerpiece of this dynamic week of study and instruction for advanced high school students. As the leading large orchestra in Music Institute summer programs, students are expected to prepare the music prior to the beginning of the program. Seating auditions are held during the first day. Each day players meet their conductor for two rehearsal sessions. Additional technique classes and sectionals complete the day.


The Philharmonia

The Philharmonia is designed for intermediate to upper intermediate high school and middle school students and offers a fun, rewarding experience for everyone. Rehearsals, technique classes, and sectionals fill each day. Seating auditions are held the first day of the program.

A variety of electives may include improvisation, composition, piano for non-majors, viola for violin students and other engaging classes as well as the opportunity for private lessons (additional fee required).

Additional Opportunities

The week is filled with rewarding musical opportunities:

  • Guest artist visits
  • Soloist recitals
  • Opportunities to observe Sun Valley Music Festival rehearsals
  • Attend the free world-class performances presented by the Sun Valley Music Festival. See the concert page on the website for more information about performance dates, guest artists, and repertoire.

Program Details

Students are placed in orchestras, sections, or ensemble groups depending on their ability level as described in their application. Student age is taken into consideration, but ability level is considered foremost. All registration information will be considered when placing students. If you have additional information relevant to placement decisions, please email or call the Music Institute office.

Placement information and music for students in the Philharmonia, SV Youth Orchestra, and Chamber Music Experience ensembles will be posted on-line in mid-June.


Orchestra seating auditions

All string players in the Philharmonia and Sun Valley Youth Orchestra will have a seating audition the first day of classes. The auditions will be held during the technique class or sectionals on Monday. You will be asked to play an excerpt from the orchestra music that is chosen by your conductor and the audition team after the first rehearsal, so make sure you practice all of your music prior to the beginning of the program.

The Philharmonia performs on the Friday Afternoon Pavilion Concert and Sun Valley Youth Orchestra perform on the Friday Evening Pavilion Concert.

(Students in the Chamber Music Experience Elective perform on the Small Group and Ensemble recital Thursday at 4:00)


Friday Pavilion concerts:

Afternoon Concert: 3:00 PM

Groups performing: Prelude Strings, Prelude Choir, Concert Choir (Intermediate Choir), Philharmonia Orchestra, select piano ensembles, select string, and woodwind or brass ensembles.

Evening Concert: 6:30 PM

Groups performing: Sun Valley Youth Orchestra, Chamber Singers (Advanced Voice), select piano ensembles, and select ensembles. This concert includes a Grand Finale featuring combined SVYO, Chamber Singers, and Concert Choir, select woodwind, brass, and percussion students.

Dress rehearsals: See the Friday schedule in your registration packet for specific times and details

Concert attire: Pavilion concerts: all students will wear the Music Institute polo shirt they receive the first week. Additionally, wear black dress pants, slacks, or skirts (knee length or longer), black dress shoes and socks (if applicable.) Please, no high heels, athletic shoes, or jeans.)


Other Summer Programs Performances:

Afternoon Pavilion Concert:

Friday, August 11, 3:00 PM

Groups performing: Prelude Strings, Prelude Choir, Concert Choir (Intermediate Choir), Philharmonia Orchestra, select piano ensembles, select string, and woodwind or brass ensembles.

Evening Pavilion Concert:

Friday, August 11, 6:00 PM

Groups performing: Sun Valley Youth Orchestra, Chamber Singers (Advanced Voice), select piano ensembles, and select ensembles. This concert includes a Grand Finale featuring combined SVYO, Chamber Singers, and Concert Choir, select woodwind, brass, and percussion students.


Soloist Recital:

Wednesday, August 9, 4:00 PM

In the Community School Theater. Featuring Intermediate-Advanced Students selected by audition to perform


Small Group and Ensemble Recital:

Thursday, August 10, 4:00 PM

In the Community School Theater

Groups Performing: Select string Chamber Music Experience Ensembles (M-Th Ensemble groups), woodwind, brass, and percussion groups, additional string class groups, and small vocal ensembles.


Prelude Strings Departmental Recital:

Friday, August 11, 11:30-12:30

In the Community School Elementary School Common Room (where their orchestra class normally meets each day)


Piano Department Recital:

Friday, August 11, 11:00-12:30

In the Community School Theater

Elective courses

The Sun Valley Music Festival Music Institute offers a variety of electives and optional courses in the summer. These courses are designed to give students an opportunity to expand their musical experience. These are optional classes, and except for the private lessons, they do not incur an additional fee. There will be a minimum and a maximum enrollment for each class. Some elective classes are offered more than one time per day.  Students will be placed in electives based on their daily schedule. Electives are best suited for intermediate and advanced middle and high school musicians.


Chamber Music Experience:

This elective is for string players who are interested in playing in small groups. Students will be placed in groups based on ability and will play a variety of chamber music pieces from different musical eras and learn the skills necessary to be a chamber musician. Select ensembles will perform on the Thursday afternoon Chamber Music Recital. NOTE: Students in grades 2-6 who are in Prelude Strings already have ensemble sessions as part of their program and should not select this elective.

Instruments: Strings, piano, woodwind, and brass
Age/Grade Level: Middle-High School Students in Philharmonia or SV Youth Orchestra
Class Schedule: 8:00-9:00 M-Th
Music Experience Level: Upper Intermediate-advanced

Enrollment is limited, audition recording is requested.


Viola for Violin Players:

Become a more versatile musician! Violin players will learn the basics of playing the viola. Instruments will be provided.

Age/Grade Level: Middle-High School grades
Music Experience Level: Intermediate-advanced
Class Schedule: 8:00-9:00 M-Th


Introduction to Improvisation:

This introductory class is open to Strings, Woodwind, Brass, Percussion, and Piano students. Learn the basic skills and techniques involved in improvisation.

Age/Grade Level: Middle-High School
Music Experience Level: Intermediate-advanced
Class Schedule: 1:00-2:00 M, W (piano)
2:15-3:15 M, W (strings and wind instruments)


Introduction to Composition A:

This course is designed for younger musicians and uses innovative materials to build music theory knowledge and introduces basic composition skills.

Age/Grade Level: Upper Elementary-Middle School (age 9-13)
Music Experience Level: Intermediate
Class Schedule: 1:00-2:00 T, Th


Introduction to Composition B:

This course is designed for older, more experienced music students with a good working knowledge of music theory. Students will learn the fundamentals of composing music.

Age/Grade Level: Upper Middle School-High School (age 13-18)
Music Experience Level: Upper intermediate-advanced
Class Schedule: 2:15-3:15 T, Th


Music Appreciation:

Gain a better understanding and basis for enjoyable listening of classical music. This class will focus on the music and composers featured during the Sun Valley Music Festival season.

Age/Grade Level: Middle School-High School
Music Experience Level: all levels
Class Schedule: 2:15-3:15 M, W


World Music:

Gain exposure to the musical traditions of cultures from around the world.

Age/Grade Level: Middle School-High School
Music Experience Level: All levels
Class Schedule: 2:15-3:15 T, Th


Piano for Non-Piano Majors:

Learn basic keyboard skills, finger patterns, chord progressions, and reading in the ‘other clef’

Music experience level: Intermediate-advanced
Class Schedule: 2:15-3:45 T, W




Private lessons (30 or 60 minutes)

Private lessons are scheduled with Festival orchestra musicians and Music Institute faculty. Students should request private lessons on the application form.  If you select this option, you will receive a sheet in your check-in packet with your instructor and lessons time. Please note that these lessons are subject to the availability of the instructors and will be assigned on a first come first served basis. There are additional fees for private lessons. These fees are payable either when you register online or at check-in the first day of classes.


Soloist recital

Students will be selected for this performance by live audition held Monday afternoon (the first day of the program) between 1:00-4:00. The performance will be Wednesday  at 4:00. An accompanist will be available. This is a competitive audition and best suited for intermediate through advanced players. Age is less a factor than ability and preparedness. All pieces must be MEMORIZED and performance ready. Please mark your registration form to indicate that you want to audition, you will be contacted prior to the Institute to confirm the piece you will play. Preference is given to pieces in the classical genre. Musical Theater pieces are acceptable for vocal students.

Work sample recordings are not required for high school string players, however they are recommended or requested in the following cases:

  • Recommended for placement into the Sun Valley Youth Orchestra for students who are younger than ninth grade
  • Requested for placement into a Chamber Music Experience ensemble elective
  • Recommended for any student who feels a work sample will be helpful in placement in any orchestra, group or ensemble


String work samples should include:

First selection: One two or three-octave scale of your choice with major and minor arpeggios. All separate bows. Four notes to mm. 92

Second selection: One etude representing the student’s highest skill level.

Third selection: a 1-2-minute excerpt of a solo piece. No accompaniment necessary


How to submit work samples

  • Audio or video recordings are accepted
  • You may insert links to YouTube or other online recordings in the boxes on your online registration form (preferred)
  • Alternately, you may email audio files to [email protected] (YouTube links may be emailed as well)
  • Please submit audio files that are small enough to be easily transferred, preferable MP3 or similar files. If work samples are too large to transmit, please compress them in a zip file or email each sample separately
  • High quality studio recordings are not necessary. A recording from a smartphone is fine provided it is a good representation of your work

Please contact the Music Institute office if you have questions about whether you should submit a recording.

Attendance policy:

  • Students must attend all assigned classes and rehearsals. If you must check a student out for some reason you must make arrangements with the Site Coordinator in advance. .
  • Students are expected to remain on campus for the duration of the program including lunch break, if applicable. If students have afternoon rehearsals or classes, please be sure to bring a sack lunch. Light snacks will be served at breaks.
  • Please notify Site Coordinator if your student is absent due to illness, or extenuating circumstances as soon as possible.
  • It is assumed that students participating in the program will be available to participate in any applicable departmental recitals and the final concert on Friday.

Dress code: There is no formal dress code, but students are expected to dress respectfully while on campus or at events. No bare midriffs, short shorts, or t-shirts with distasteful slogans or logos

Concert attire: Music Institute Polo shirt received at check in, black pants or black knee length or longer skirts, black dress shoes and black socks(if applicable.)

Please, no jeans, athletic shoes, or high heels.

Music Institute Polo Shirts will be worn at all performances (large and small ensembles, department recitals) unless otherwise approved by Site Coordinator.

Please note that the Sun Valley area is in rural Idaho with very limited access to shopping, please review above list of required attire and be sure to bring all items with you.

Food is the responsibility of the participating students. Light snacks will be provided during breaks each day.

Housing is not routinely provided for students from out of the area. On occasion a limited number of home stay situations may be arranged for students only. Students must be 12 years of age or older to qualify for a home stay. Please contact the office if you require housing assistance in order to attend the Music Institute. Housing cannot be guaranteed, but staff will make every effort to help you find affordable accommodations.

As a resort community, the Wood River Valley (the communities of Sun Valley, Ketchum, Hailey, and Bellevue) offers a broad range of lodging options.  For more information, click here.

If you are the family of a local student attending the Music Institute Summer Programs, please contact the office if you would like to host a student musician. Thank you to those who have done this in the past!

Acceptance notification: Since the Music Institute now offers summer programs for just about every ability level and instrument, we will only notify you if we do not have a program that fits your age, ability level, or instrument.

Fees: Thanks to the generosity of Festival donors, much of the summer programs work is underwritten! The total registration/materials fee for the program is $100. You may pay online as you register. This fee includes materials and the Music Institute polo shirt that is required for performances.

Fee refund policy:

  • Registration cancelled by June 1: full refund available
  • Registration cancelled by June 15: partial refund ($35 polo shirt/materials fee)
  • Registration cancelled after June 15: No Refund of $100 registration/materials fee. Fees paid in advance for private lessons may be refunded.

Contact the education office to request a refund. If you are unable to attend this summer’s Music Institute programs and would like to convert your registration fee into a donation to the Festival’s Music Institute, please let us know.

Scholarships: The Festival offers a limited number of scholarships for registration fees. You can apply for a scholarship as you register online in the fees section on the registration form. Scholarships will cover $65 of the total fee, we ask that you pay the $35 materials fee upon registration.

Private lessons: Many Sun Valley Music Festival musicians are available for private lessons during The Institute. Students should request a private lesson on their registration forms. The Festival will attempt to accommodate all requests for private lessons

  • $65 Hour
  • $35 Half-Hour


If for some reason, you cannot fulfill your obligation to attend the program, please let the Music Institute know by June 15 so another student may fill your spot.