In 1963, the Anchorage Borough School District hired Frank Pinkerton, an Eastman School of Music graduate with ten years experience leading the Los Alamos, New Mexico, high school orchestra program. Pinkerton conducted the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra for four years (1963-67) where he incorporated select high school student musicians. On September 23, 1963 Pinkerton submitted a four-year plan to the school district that included the creation of a “symphonic orchestra” for high school students, and set the plan in motion to accomplish that.
Original Proposal Document
First Newspaper Article
“Free String Course”
“Symphony Season Opens Tonight”
Original String Program Description
Alaska Music Educator Article
AllSchool Orchestra Concert Program
Twenty months later, Pinkerton founded and conducted the All-School String Orchestra with its first annual concert on May 17, 1965.
The orchestra’s name evolved into the Anchorage Youth Symphony in 1966 when wind and percussion instrumentalists were added.
Pinkerton’s successful approach utilized a collaborative model anchored by the Anchorage School District’s music programs.
Summer School Application
“ACC Forming Adult Class In Instruments”
“TOSS Singers Will Present Christmas Program”
Toss Singers Concert Program
Annual Spring Concert – Anchorage Symphony Newspaper Advertisement
“Anchorage Symphony Performs Tonight”
Anchorage Symphony Concert Program
Concert Support Hit By Reviewer
21st Season Anchorage Symphony – First Night
“Youth Concerts Given”
“Festival Head Named”
“Scholarships Are Given 46 For Festival”
“Summer Music Camp At U Of A”
“Borough Schools Focus On Teaching Child As Individual”
“Early Registration Urged For Festival of Music Camp”
Anchorage Youth Symphony Student Concerto Concert Program
As AYS Conductor, Pinkerton oversaw the expansion of opportunities to perform throughout the state, and the Anchorage Youth Symphony’s reputation grew steadily.
Dewey Ehling replaced Frank Pinkerton as music director of both the Anchorage School District and the youth symphony. The Anchorage Youth Symphony Association became a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 1981. Until his retirement in 1986, he expanded the touring schedule, traveling and performing nationally and internationally.
In 1986 and 1987 Linn Weeda led the orchestra. In 1987, John Duff was appointed Music Director. During his tenure the orchestra toured Scotland. In 1991 Russell Guyver succeeded Duff, instituting a series of retreats to encourage the social interaction of members, as well as concerts in the Matanuska-Susitna valley.
Linn Weeda was again engaged as the Music Director in 1992, and continues in that position. In recent years the orchestra’s program has expanded to include coaching by local professional musicians, many who were in the youth symphony as young players. Other activities under Weeda have included an annual recording project, a chamber music series, the formation of the Anchorage Youth Philharmonic, an alumni association, scholarships, and extensive touring.
In 2012, the non-profit Anchorage Youth Symphony Association became Alaska Youth Orchestras.
Members of the orchestras are chosen each year during auditions in the spring, and are drawn from every public and private school in the area as well as from the Matanuska-Susitna valley. In previous years, students have flown in from Kodiak, Homer, and Kenai to rehearse and perform with the orchestras.
Without great music, education is not complete. Music education has long been an educational priority of the Anchorage School District with classes in orchestra, band, and chorus offered at the elementary, junior, and senior high levels. The AYO encourages and supports the music program within the schools in the belief that great music played well instills in young people discipline and the joy of great musical ideas.