The Westmount Youth Orchestra (WYO) was founded in 1995 by Salim Nakhjavani. Salim’s dream was to provide a place where young musicians of the Westmount community could meet and make music together. Salim, a future law student, set a solid foundation by writing the bylaws, and recruiting a Board made up of people devoted to providing a nurturing environment and family atmosphere for youth of all musical levels. Community values were, and still are, of the greatest importance.

The orchestra played its first concerts at Victoria Hall conducted by Mark Simons and Anthony Rozankovic, supported by a coaching staff of Margaret Lysy, violin, and James Darling, cello. Jean MacRae, violin and viola, joined the team as string coach in 1996.

Mark continued as Music director of the orchestra from 1996 to 2004, followed by Josée Laforest, Scott Gabriel, and since September 2011, Jean MacRae.

To encourage younger musicians and help prepare them for the Symphony Orchestra, a junior String Ensemble was added to the family in 1999, directed by Margaret Lysy, Jean MacRae and James Darling. A third ensemble was added in 2003: Dolce Musica for intermediate strings, directed by Jean MacRae. From September 2011 to May 2016 the String Ensemble was led by Aman Joshi, and since September 2016, by Veronica Tamburro.

The Westmount Youth Orchestra family now numbers over 130 musicians between the ages of 5 and 25 playing in the three ensembles, String Ensemble, Dolce Musica, and the Symphony Orchestra.

Here are some highlights from our first 15 years:

1998,1999: 2 gold and 1 silver medals at Vanier College’s Musicfest.
2000: exchange with L’orchestre des jeunes de Saguenay-Lac-St Jean.
2002: visits Vermont to perform with the Vermont Ballet.
2003: first tour to Germany and exchange with the Braunschweig Youth Orchestra.
2007: Symphony Orchestra tour to Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic.
2007: Symphony Orchestra performs Pascal Vermandère’s Te Deum with the Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal.
2007: 10th Anniversary Gala concert hosted by Mila and Ben Mulroney with guest artist baritone Russell Braun.
2010: Symphony Orchestra collaborates with the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra at St-Jean-Baptiste Church for a concert to benefit the organization LOVE (Leave Out Violence), a youth violence prevention organization.
2013: tour to Havana, Cuba and collaboration with the Amadeo Roldàn Conservatory orchestra.