Greenville County Youth Orchestra in Greenville, South Carolina - A Vision Accomplished

Greenville County Youth Orchestra (GCYO) is now the name that encompasses two youth orchestras named the Young Artist Orchestra (previously GCYO) and The Philharmonic (The Phil) that take place at the Fine Arts Center, which is part of the Greenville County School District.

When Jeff Purtle and Mary AllyeB Purtle began working with GCYO in 1998 there was one orchestra. In 1998 Mary AllyeB wrote a proposal for her vision to develop a training orchestra that could play stand alone concerts. Through her persistence this eventually came to pass and became what is today called The Philharmonic, previously called GCYO Junior and later The J.

Greenville County Youth Orchestra and their Young Artist Orchestra is a full sized orchestra based in the Greenville, South Carolina area and is currently a 2 unit Honors Level class (previously only a half-unit credit) at the Fine Arts Center of the Greenville County School District. YAO is the top string performance group in a series of various levels of string groups in the Greenville County School District. YAO maintains very high standards and limits the quantity of wind players in order to maintain the experience of playing in a realistic orchestral setting. This means each wind player is responsible for their own part and there is seldom part doubling. Similarly, The Philharmonic has high standards and orchestral instrumentation. The Philharmonic is currently a 1 unit Honors Level Class as part of the Greenville County School District.

Mary AllyeB Purtle and Jeff Purtle began working with GCYO starting in August 1998 and were instrumental in recruiting and auditioning players to fit an overall goal of making GCYO a true Honors Level orchestra with an experience like that of a professional orchestra. By raising the standards required and eliminating part doubling the orchestra evolved to play primarily major orchestral repertoire that is un-arranged and un-transposed. Brass players were required to transpose and trombones to read alto and tenor clef. Our goal was a realistic orchestral experience that would benefit the students as possible future musicians and professionals. It was Jeff's vision in 2000 that GCYO be recorded and featured on the Carolina Concerts radio broadcasts, at the time hosted by longtime friend Charles Khoelsch. Jeff set-up the first website,, and later coordinated a redesign by former GCYO french horn player, Colin Gray, who later became a graphic designer and university professor. The domain name later changed to Jeff also recommended move to a CMS (Content Management System) after seeing the benefits of Drupal to the website.

In 2008 Mary AllyeB quit working with the Young Artist Orchestra to only work with The Philharmonic (aka The Phil), which was her concept of a training orchestra with woodwinds and brass that she initiated in 1998. In 2009 Jeff quit working with The Young Artist Orchestra (aka The YAO) after 11 years to pursue other rewarding musical and teaching goals, namely the Purtle Brass Conference. In 2011 Mary AllyeB quit working with The Phil. We brought about the transformation of GCYO by eliminating seating based on seniority, restructuring the auditions to better evaluate the fundamental skills of students, eliminating the use of saxophones (except if required for a specific piece), and making the orchestra more friendly to families not wanting activities on Sundays that conflict with worship practices.

Greenville County Youth Orchestra is not the only youth orchestra in upstate South Carolina area that we have private students in. Carolina Youth Symphony is also another excellent youth orchestra, which meets at Furman University on Sunday afternoons and fills a niche for students with free time on Sundays and provides an opportunity for saxophones doubling french horn parts. Our students have held principal chairs and been winners of the annual Carolina Youth Symphony soloist competition. In the Spartanburg area there is also the Palmetto Youth Orchestra and the Spartanburg Youth Orchestra.