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The idea for creating the Asian Youth Orchestra was inspired by my work since 1967 in Taiwan, Japan and China, where I conducted and toured extensively, introducing Beethoven, Brahms, Prokofiev and Copland to Chinese audiences emerging from the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, heading a campaign in the late 1980s for restoration of materials lost in a fire at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

Wherever I traveled and worked, students asked me how they might study abroad. An innocent question, the consequence of which is that many who leave Asia never return. Creating an orchestra that might unite the region, celebrate the excellence of young Asian musicians and encourage this new generation of talented individuals to build on what they have at home was my objective when I wrote the first draft of a plan for founding the Asian Youth Orchestra.

I first proposed the idea to Yehudi Menuhin. In very quick succession we met in Reno, Nevada, San Francisco, and then at his home in Chester Square, London. He was thrilled with the possibilities of bringing together young Asian musicians and signed on as music director without hesitation.

Even today I am astonished that this extraordinary musician, someone who lives up there with the gods, would trust so much in what the Asian Youth Orchestra might become. He seemed to sense its potential from the outset. His sparkling, clear blue eyes came alive whenever we talked about it. His introduction to former British Prime Minister Edward Heath, who had been so instrumental in founding the European Community Youth Orchestra, was crucial to our eventual success.

While Yehudi provided the musical inspiration that drew public and media attention to our tiny project, two San Francisco physicians, brothers Ben and A. Jess Shenson, were working behind the scenes to help me turn dream into reality. They had traveled to Asia since the 1930s, and amongst their many friends here was the irrepressible Sing Tao chairman, Sally Aw Sian. Ben and Jess arranged for me to meet Sally. Their friendship gave her confidence in the notion of an Asian Youth Orchestra. When few would listen, she generously supported us with a gift in excess of HK$5 million.

Ben and Jess traveled for years with AYO, caring for our musicians. They, with Sally Aw and Yehudi Menuhin are the true godparents of the Asian Youth Orchestra.

Richard Pontzious
Founder, Artistic director and Conductor



The following chronicles AYO's activities throughout the years.



Adelaide Symphony Orchestra

Bangkok Symphony Orchestra

Beijing National Center for Performing Arts Orchestra

Busan Philharmonic Orchestra

Central Aichi Symphony Orchestra

Century Orchestra Osaka

China National Opera House Symphony Orchestra

China Philharmonic Orchestra

Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Everygreen Symphony Orchestra

Geidai Philharmonia

Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra

Hangzhou Philharmonic Orchestra

Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra

Hong Kong Disneyland

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Hong Kong Sinfonietta
Kangnam Symphony Orchestra

Klassische Philharmonic Bonn

Komische Oper Berlin

Macao Orchestra

Malaysia Philharmonic Orchestra

Manila Symphony Orchestra

Memphis Symphony Orchestra

Metropolitan Opera Orchestra

Mid-Atlantic Symphony

Milwaukee Symphony

National Symphony Orchestra, Malaysia

National Symphony Orchestra, Taiwan

National Symphony Orchestra, Thailand

National Symphony Orchestra, Vietnam

New Philharmonic Osaka

New York Philharmonic

NHK Symphony Orchestra

Nusantara Symphony Orchestra

Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi

Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana

Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra

Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble

Philharmonic Moments Musicaux

Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra

Qatar Philharmonic

San Francisco Symphony

Sapporo Symphony Orchestra

Seongnam Philharmonic Orchestra

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra

Siam Philharmonic Orchestra

Singapore Chinese Orchestra

Singapore Symphony Orchestra

Suwon Philharmonic Orchestra

Taipei Philharmonic Orchestra

Taipei Symphony Orchestra

Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra

Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra

Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra

Vietnam National Opera and Ballet Orchestra

Weimar Staatkapelle






Sergiu Comissiona, Conductor
Vance George, Chorus Director


1. Beethoven: Egmont Overture
2. Beethoven: Symphony No.9


Segiu Comissiona, Music Director and Conductor
Satoko Asaji, Koto


1. Bartok: Divertimento
2. Shuichi Tanaka: Caprice for 25-String Koto and Chamber Orchestra
3. Bernstein: Waltz from Divertimento for Orchestra (1980)
4. Mozart: Serenade in E-flat for Woodwind Octet, K. 375


Sergiu Comissiona, Music Director and Conductor


1. Bach/Stokowski: Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BMV 565
2. Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4


Richard Pontzious, Artistic Director and Conductor

Disc 1

1. Dukas: The Sorcerer's Apprentice
2. Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

Disc 2
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade


Richard Pontzious, Artistic Director and Conductor
James Judd, Guest Conductor
Alisa Weilerstein, Cello Soloist

Disc 1
1. Elgar: Cello Concerto in E minor for Cello and Orchestra

2. Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet, Selections from Suites I and II
3. Kabalevsky: Galop
4. Elgar: Nimrod from the Enigma Variations

Disc 2
1. Barber: Second Essay for Orchestra
2. Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5


Richard Pontzious, Artistic Director and Conductor

1. Opening sequence
2. Schuman: American Festival Overture
3. Copland: Appalachian Spring
4. Ives: Variations on America

5. Copland: Hoe Down
6. Tour Finale: Conductor’s remarks
7. Elgar: Nimrod from the Enigma Variations


Richard Pontzious, Artistic Director and Conductor


1. Shostakovich: Festive Overture
2. R. Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks
3. Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D, Titan
4. Elgar: Nimrod from the Enigma Variations


Richard Pontzious, Artistic Director and Conductor
Stefan Jackiw, Violin Soloist

1. Opening Remarks
2. Hanson: Symphony No. 2, Op 30, Romantic
3. Barber: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 14

4. Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 From the New World
5. Enescu: Romanian Rhapsody No. 1

These CDs and DVDs are for promotional purposes only. Not for sale.

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