New Orleans youth orchestra strikes a chord with young musicians

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 10:27 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - For 30 years, the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra (GNOYO) has continued to inspire young musicians every day.

The orchestra brings together students from the north and south shores to hone in on their musical abilities and express themselves through music. Students learn leadership skills and have the chance to earn college scholarships and achieve their highest potential.

“It’s been life transforming because when young people show up, they show up like sponges waiting to absorb and when you see them grow, you feel very honored to be a part of their development,” said Music Director Dr. John Montes, D.M.A.

Dr. Montes has been the music director for GNOYO since 2007. He says students who participate in orchestra are more prepared for real-world challenges.

“They understand sort of all the facets of who they are, but then also able to appreciate what the world has to offer to them,” he said.

Dr. Montes describes GNOYO as a team-building experience for young musicians. Whether they pursue music after high school or not, they learn the importance of hard work and showing up.


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For 16-year-old Noah Henderson, playing the viola in youth orchestra, makes him feel unique among his peers.

“It just makes me stand out even more, so I’m super glad I can do it in a city where it’s not as common,” he said. “I got to meet some incredible people that I became best friends with, deepen my relationship with; it really helps bond the community in my opinion.”

In addition to playing in the orchestra, Henderson plays football at the Willow School in New Orleans.

“Playing a string instrument and playing football, that’s not seen very often,” he said. “I never thought that I was going to be like a one-dimensional person. I always wanted to do as much as possible and my parents always supported that.”

He said the discipline he has learned from practice and teamwork has translated through his education.

“I feel like I’m able to push myself in every other aspect of my life. Same with my instrument, I keep telling myself ‘practice. Keep doing it until it gets right,’ you know?” Henderson said.

With a couple of years left in his high school career, Henderson already has his eyes set on his future.

“I’m one thousand percent continuing my musical career in college,” said Henderson. “It’s (GNOYO) also one of the best parts of my day. So I want to keep it in my life until I’m old and gray and can’t play anymore.”

Dr. Montes says youth orchestras like GNOYO provide a foundation and help prepare students for the world.

“We are fostering creativity because if you become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or a reporter, you have to be creative. And having exercised those muscles gives you an endless possibility to think and find a way to do things differently. That’s why we should embrace the arts in all its facets and make sure it’s supported so we can have those creative minds go into all those fields and make a difference in the world,” he said.

Young musicians aged 7-19 are required to audition before joining the orchestra.

For more information on joining or upcoming events, visit

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