Our History

The Golden Isles Youth Orchestra (GIYO), formerly called the Coastal Youth Symphony (CYS), was founded in 2005 by the Coastal Symphony of Georgia to introduce classical music to the children in Glynn and surrounding counties. In 2014, GIYO became a 501(c)3 organization, with its own board of directors and the ability to accept donations.

Lynn Fogarty, founder of the early “Fiddlers of Glynn,” served as CYS’s first formal music director and conductor. Many founding members of the orchestra learned to play in the elementary school classes offered at that time in both the Glynn and Camden County school districts. Elementary strings programs in Glynn and all strings programs in Camden ended in 2008 and have not been reestablished. During the 2020-2021 school year, only Glynn Academy and Glynn Middle School offer courses in orchestra during the school day.

Upon Ms. Fogarty’s retirement, Maestro Luis Haza, renowned for his work with the National Symphony and American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras, became music director and conductor of CYS. During his four years of leadership, the orchestra became one of the area’s premier performance groups. Maestro Haza also began our intensive summer instruction program for orchestra members at the College of Coastal Georgia. Maestro Haza retired at the end of the 2014 season.

Maestro Jorge Peña, well-known locally and regionally for his well-conducted and well-run musical organizations, became the new music director and conductor. In 2014, the youth symphony became the Golden Isles Youth Orchestra (GIYO). The GIYO has become a regional youth orchestra, drawing students from Glynn, Camden, McIntosh, Ware, and Bacon counties. To date, all GIYO musicians have graduated from high school and then enrolled in the military or in college, many of them with scholarships. The full orchestra, now called GIYO Philharmonia, practices on most Monday evenings and performs two major concerts each year along with a fall fund-raising recital.

In addition to Philharmonia, GIYO offers select students the opportunity to perform in small ensembles. Originally directed by Beverly Fetter, these ensembles are currently led by Stephenie Powell, Director of Ensemble and String Development. Last year, the ensembles performed at local churches, weddings, service organization meetings, and civic celebrations.

In 2013, GIYO Symphonette, our mid-level strings orchestra, was formed. Membership is secured by audition, and most successful applicants have had at least one year of instruction on a stringed instrument. Todd Lockwood, Associate Principal Bass of the Jacksonville Symphony and an instructor at Jacksonville University serves as music director and conductor. Most Symphonette members audition successfully to become members of the full orchestra. Symphonette practices on Monday, 6:00 to 7:30 pm, and offers two “Families and Friends” concerts a year. Symphonette members also have the opportunity to play with the GIYO ensembles.

In March of 2020, because of COVID-19, JOI!, a string orchestra for beginning elementary musicians, ceased its Sunday practices. Plans have been made to re-start this third orchestra in January of 2021.

The String-On! Program invites current 5th grade students to a week of introductory instruction in strings. This program takes place in the elementary schools with daily instruction. At the end of the week, those students are able to play a tune! String-ON! Is also on hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions.

GIYO participants who qualify have the opportunity to receive subsidized small group and private lessons, as well as placement in our summer camps.