The Abilene Youth Philharmonic Orchestra was created in 1988 by Celeste Myall. It enjoyed 18 years of operation until it was discontinued in 2006 for financial reasons. After a 13 year hiatus, the orchestra was revived as the Abilene Youth Orchestra after the Abilene Philharmonic Association received a generous pledge from an anonymous donor.
The Abilene Youth Orchestra (AYO) is a full symphony orchestra that offers a unique opportunity for the most serious and talented young musicians in the Big Country to perform advanced repertoire that will challenge and inspire. The primary purpose of the AYO is to provide its members with exemplary symphonic training and performance opportunities and to inspire a culture of musical excellence. In doing so, the organization promotes advanced musical education and offers quality music to the community. AYO recognizes the excellent musical education and private instruction that students in the Big Country receive and seeks to provide the chance for students to perform together in a full symphonic setting.
The Abilene Youth Orchestra exists for the benefit of young musicians, responds to their needs, and keeps their interest in musical education paramount to all other considerations. The organization does not discriminate on the basis or race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status.
Dr. Steven Ward serves as the Music Director/Conductor of the Civic Orchestra of Abilene. He is also a Professor of Music at Abilene Christian University, where he is the Director of Bands, conductor of the Wind Ensemble, coordinator of the chamber music program, and teaches courses in conducting. Previous to his appointment at ACU, he was Director of Bands at Hope College in Holland, MI, and the Music Director/Conductor of the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra in Kalamazoo, MI. Dr. Ward holds a D.M.A. in Conducting from Michigan State University, a M.A. in Conducting from Stephen F. Austin State University, and a B.M. in Music Education from Abilene Christian University. Prior to his appointment at Hope College, Dr. Ward was the Music Director/Conductor of the Grande Ronde Symphony Orchestra in La Grande, OR, and was Instructor of Music at Eastern Oregon University.
He has conducted extensively in many different areas including orchestra, band, musical theater, opera, and contemporary music, and is a recipient of the ASCAP award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music. He spent 9 summers at the Interlochen Arts Camp, conducting the Interlochen Philharmonic, as well as middle school and high school bands and orchestras, and faculty ensembles. He has conducted many all-region and similar ensembles, including the Symphony Orchestra at the Michigan Youth Arts Festival, region orchestras and bands throughout Texas, Michigan, Tennessee, and others. He has served as conductor for the orchestra and faculty ensembles at the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts in since 2006.
Dr. Ward is President for the South-Central region of the College Orchestra Directors Association, Vice President for the Southwestern Region of the College Band Directors National Association, and is a member of the Texas Orchestra Directors Association, the College Band Directors National Association, the Texas Music Educators Association, the Texas Bandmasters Association, the Michigan State Band and Orchestra Directors Association, and the American String Teachers Association.