In the summer of 2003, violin teachers Jenny Jackson and Terilyn Taylor decided to create an organization for young LDS musicians to build their testimonies and serve others through music. Jeremy Woolstenhulme, a cellist and orchestra director at Hyde Park Middle School joined forces with Sister Jackson and Sister Taylor to organize a small string orchestra. They performed three concerts that first season and provided music at the annual fireside for workers at the Las Vegas Temple. Elder Richard G. Scott was the featured speaker at the fireside. After hearing the new orchestra perform, he sought out Sisters Jackson and Taylor to encourage them to keep the group going, emphasizing that the “youth of the church in Las Vegas and the community of Las Vegas need this group.”
Heartened by Elder Scott’s support, the three musicians expanded their string orchestra to include woodwinds, brass and percussion the following year, creating a full symphony orchestra. In its 2nd season, the symphony performed several concerts with stake youth choirs throughout the city. After the Christmas concert of 2004, it became clear that the next step in the development of the growing organization was the addition of a permanent choir. DeNae Handy, an experienced choir director was invited to organize and direct the choir and the Las Vegas Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus was born.
Since that time the symphony and chorus have been invited to perform at the dedication of the Mormon Fort, the LDS Music Festival at Cashman Center, a concert with guest artist Julie Bevan, BYU Professor of Cello and member of the Orchestra on Temple Square, an event sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, many stake firesides and major concerts each year at Christmas and in the spring as well as concerts in outlying communities such as Logandale, Overton and Mesquite. The group has taken two tours; the first, in 2005-6 was through Utah with concerts in Cedar City, Springville and Salt Lake City, the second tour was to southern Utah in the 2006-7 season.
Symphony directors during season 1-8 have included Jeremy Woolstenhulme and David Skouson. Choir directors during the same period have been DeNae Handy, Robert Orgill and Jeffrey Skouson. In season 7 the format was changed to accommodate the youth to a 2 concert season and in the spring of 2011 the Las Vegas Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus presented a production of “Lamb of God” by Rob Gardner with soloists Jordan Bluth, Taylor Eliason, Sebastian Fraser, Benjamin D. Hale, Kaitlyn Kleinman, and Courteny Nielson.
As we go into our 9th season more changes have taken place. We have a new name: Zion’s Youth Symphony and Chorus with a new theme song “of Zion’s Youth in Latter Days” arranged by Rob Gardner . From its simple beginnings as a small string orchestra, Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus, now Zions Youth Symphony and Chorus moves forward with a full board of directors and dozens of volunteers, all of whom volunteer their time and expertise to further the best possible experience for the young musicians involved. In the coming years, the Zion’s Youth Symphony and Chorus will continue to provide opportunities for the youth to build their testimonies and serve others through music.