The Etowah Youth Orchestras was founded in October of 1990 to complement the established strings program in the Gadsden City Schools by offering beginning strings in selected Etowah County and Attalla City Schools; to establish an intermediate string orchestra and an advanced full orchestra; and to offer and promote private string instruction in Etowah County, Alabama.
Under the direction of Music Director and Conductor Michael R. Gagliardo, the Orchestras have presented concerts throughout the United States and abroad, including Carnegie Hall in New York City (two appearances); the Lincoln Center in New York City; the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC (in a performance which was broadcast live over the internet, and is archived at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage website); Manston and Stratford-Upon-Avon in England; San Jose, San Ramon, Orotina, and Jaco in Costa Rica; Chicago; St. Louis; New Orleans; Philadelphia; New Haven; and Boston. The ensembles have also performed for Jacksonville State University’s Kaleidoscope Arts Series; the Alabama Music Educators Association Conference; the American Honor Orchestra Conference at the University of Southern Mississippi; the Arts Advocacy Day Conference in Washington, DC; the ASTA w/NSOA National Conference; and the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame And Museum’s summer teacher’s institute.
The Orchestras’ have become nationally recognized for their performances of the music of contemporary composers. Since 1992, the EYO has performed the World Premieres of works by Mark Wood, Daniel Dorff, Julia Scott Carey, Terry Williams, James Woodward, Miriam Lense, Sheridan Seyfried, Stella Sung, James Curnow, Philip Koplow, Paul Hanks, Alan Moss, Julius Williams, John Wilson, James Grant, Ralph Whitfield, Ryan Fraley, Mike Gagliardo, Kevin McMahon, Paul Pierce, Johnny Mathis Jr., and Max Chain.
The EYO’s commitment to new music has been recognized by the American Symphony Orchestra League with the receipt of eleven ASCAP Awards “for excellence in the programming and performance of contemporary orchestral music,” and an additional ASCAP Award in 2006 for American Programming on a Foreign Tour. In addition, in January of 1999 the EYO was selected to represent the State of Alabama in the Continental Harmony Project. The program, which was sponsored by the American Composers Forum and funded by the National Endowment For The Arts, was an initiative to create 50 new works of music for the millennium.
The EYO’s unique approach to programming and performance has led to concerts with Grammy-winning artist Bruce Hornsby and his band (April 2001); as the opening act for James Taylor at the Oak Mountain Amphitheater in Birmingham (August 2001); with blues harmonica legend Jerry “Boogie” McCain (November 1996 & June 1997); and many other unique performing opportunities, including three live “silent-movie” style performances of How The Grinch Stole Christmas (December 2000, 2001, and 2004). The EYO has also been a part of two documentaries filmed by Alabama Public Television, and has been the subject of two feature articles in Band & Orchestra Product News magazine.