Youth Orchestras Update - Updated March 17, 2020 4:30 PM

Dear Parents and Students of the SC Philharmonic Youth Orchestras,

The South Carolina Philharmonic (SCP) is committed to the health and safety of our audience and musicians at our concerts. We believe it is critical to do our part to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Based on the rapidly changing public health situation, the guidelines put into place by the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the cancellation/postponement of local events, and in line with the concerns of our patrons and staff, we have decided to suspend the remainder of the Youth Orchestras 19/20 season.

From the CDC website updated on March 15, 2020, “Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities. Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies… Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.”

While this is not how we envisioned the end of the Youth Orchestras season, it is paramount that we put the health and safety of our student musicians, conductors, staff, patrons, and community first. The Youth Orchestras have accomplished incredible growth over the last year with the addition of our fourth orchestra, and all four orchestras have presented two fantastic concerts this season. It is disappointing that the hard work and dedication put forth by the students, conductors, and families of our Youth Orchestras program will not cultivate into a final concert this spring, but we are hopeful that the uncertainty of our current environment will not slow the momentum of the program moving into the 2020/2021 season.

At this time, auditions are to remain as scheduled on May 3rd and May 17th for string instruments, and May 4th and May 18th for winds, brass, and percussion instruments. Information for the spring auditions, including links to register for an audition slot, can be found by visiting We will continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis and will provide updates when available should any changes to the current schedule need to be made. The latest updates regarding COVID-19 will be posted on the South Carolina Philharmonic website here.

On behalf of the board of directors and staff, it is our sincere hope that students, parents, and patrons support this decision, and continue to show support for the SC Philharmonic during this difficult time and in the future. The health and safety of our Philharmonic family is top priority.

If you have any questions, please email our Youth Orchestras Manager at or Education Director at, or call our office at 803.771.7937.

Thank you for being part of the SC Philharmonic family,

Rhonda Hunsinger
Executive Director

Karly Shorter
Education Director

Neil Casey
Youth Orchestras Music Director

Auditions Now Open for the Four Ensembles

The Youth Orchestra is comprised of four competitive ensembles. Membership in the Youth Orchestras program is open to students throughout the state ages eight through high school, on an auditioned basis. Auditions are coming up this Spring for all four orchestras. Sign up below to participate:

Strings: Sunday, May 3, 2020, or Sunday, May 17, 2020

Winds, Brass, Percussion: Monday, May 4, 2020, or Monday, May 18, 2020

Youth Orchestra Concert Tickets


For the first time this season, we are offering season tickets for our Youth Orchestras concerts. If you purchase a season ticket you get one concert free. Adults $30 and students for $15. 


Concert 3 - 4/26/2020 4:00 PM (Koger Center for the Arts)





Youth Philharmonic


The Youth Orchestra’s most advanced full orchestra, the Youth Philharmonic is conducted by Neil Casey. It performs professional-level repertoire and occasionally side-by-side the professional South Carolina Philharmonic.


Music excerpts to prepare for your audition
Prepare all excerpts for your instrument (not all excerpts may be requested during the audition) + solo piece of your choice.

Concert Orchestra


Concert Orchestra is an advanced string ensemble comprised of intermediate level string players and conducted by Meredith Tashkandi. Students perform string orchestra literature in addition to intermediate-level arrangements.


Music excerpts to prepare for your audition
Prepare all excerpts for your instrument (not all excerpts may be requested during the audition) + solo piece of your choice.

Symphonic Orchestra


Under the direction of Nathan Tucker, the Symphonic Orchestra is the Youth Orchestra’s intermediate full orchestra. It performs unabridged pieces of standard orchestral repertoire, as well as some advanced level arrangements.


Music excerpts to prepare for your audition
Prepare all excerpts for your instrument (not all excerpts may be requested during the audition) + solo piece of your choice.

Membership Dues


$220 for the first participating member of each family. Additional participants from the same family will each pay a fee of $170.

If you are joining in after our first concert, the pricing is listed below:
2/3 Season for $147
2/3 Season for 2 family members ($147 + $115) for $262 each
1/3 Season for $75 (each child)

Click here to make a payment for the 2019/2020 season.

Any questions? Call the S.C. Philharmonic office at 803.771.7937 and speak to Education Director, Karly Shorter.

Prelude Orchestra


Conducted by Carson Coomes, the Prelude Orchestra is an advanced beginner string ensemble comprised of string players with at least one year of playing experience. This group is ideal for beginner students wanting an additional challenge, or for Suzuki/private lesson students looking for a first-time orchestra experience.


Music excerpts to prepare for your audition
Students auditioning for the Prelude Orchestra are to prepare a solo piece of choice that will showcase your technique, musicality, and overall playing ability.  Please bring an extra copy to the audition for the judges. Additional requirements are listed on the Audition Information above.

Membership Requirements


Membership in the Youth Orchestras program is open to students throughout the state ages eight through high school, on an auditioned basis. Membership requirements include:

  • Have at least some playing experience
  • Participate in your school music program (if one is available)
  • One-time payment of membership dues

Conductor Bio: Neil Casey


Neil Casey is the assistant director of orchestras at the University of South Carolina, as well as the Music Director of the South Carolina Philharmonic Youth Orchestras.  At USC, he teaches conducting, violin, chamber music, conducts Opera at USC and the USC Campus Orchestra, an ensemble that he created. Previously, Mr. Casey was the assistant conductor of the Augusta (Ga.) Symphony, Conductor of the Armstrong Atlantic Youth Orchestra (Savannah, Ga.), and a faculty member at the Conductors Institute in Columbia and the Opera Master Classes in Charleston, South Carolina as part of Piccolo Spoleto.

An active guest conductor, Maestro Casey has appeared with the former Savannah Symphony, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Oregon Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Knoxville Symphony, Spokane Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Savannah Sinfonietta, South Carolina Philharmonic, Greater Anderson Music and Arts Consortium Chamber Orchestra, Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, Newberry Festival Orchestra, Karelian Philharmonic Orchestra (Petrazovodsk, Russia), Greater Spartanburg Philharmonic, Aiken Symphony, Charleston Symphony, and several national and international tours with the Hollywood Concert Orchestra. For the past few years, Neil has been the conductor for the Columbia Festival Orchestra’s Nutcracker Ballets as well.
Passionate for opera, Neil has appeared with the Augusta Opera and conducted Claflin University’s Celebration of Black Pioneers in the field of opera featuring renowned soprano, Leona Mitchell.  In his post as conductor of Opera at USC, Maestro Casey has led performances of over 20 different productions. In January of 2002, he was appointed to the position of Assistant Conductor of the American Music Theatre for a television production of Robert Ward’s Roman Fever. Mr. Casey is also the conductor on several cd’s featuring operas by Robert Bradshaw with the Palmetto Camerata on the Beauport Press Label.  During the 2011-2012 season, Maestro Casey made his debut with the Western Plain’s Opera for productions of Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.

Committed to education, this year marks Neil’s fifth season as Music Director/Conductor of the South Carolina Philharmonic Youth Orchestras, where a fourth orchestra has just been created. Neil earned both his B.M. in music education and violin performance, and his M.M. in orchestral conducting from the University of South Carolina, where he was the recipient of the 1997 Van Doren Award (awarded to the Most Outstanding Graduating Senior/Music Ed Track).

Did You Know?

Discounts for Kids

Children 17 and under receive half-price concert tickets to all Masterworks Series concerts.


Our Adopt-a-Musician program brings South Carolina’s finest musicians into schools in order to talk about their musical lives, engage in musical discussions, share a live performance, and collaborate with teachers and students.

Healing Harmonies

This long-running program brings South Carolina Philharmonic musicians to area healthcare facilities to aid in healing the heart, mind, and body.