Blues Alley Youth Orchestra

The Blues Alley Youth Orchestra is comprised of accomplished student musicians ranging in age from 13 to 18 years old, and their mission is to preserve and promote the big band jazz art form. The Orchestra rehearses and performs under the musical direction of renowned bassist, Michael Bowie. Now in its 3rd decade, the Orchestra has performed at many of the classic venues in the Washington metropolitan area such as The John F. Kennedy Center, The Smithsonian Institution, Voice of America, Carter Barron Amphitheater, Wolf Trap Farm Park, and Blues Alley.

The Orchestra was founded in 1985 along with its parent organization the Blues Alley Jazz Society and performs musical selections by such masterful jazz composers as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Chick Corea, and Herbie Hancock. The Orchestra typically contains a full complement of brass, reeds and rhythm, and it attracts young jazz musicians from Frederick to Fredericksburg. Orchestra members take part in both civic and educational opportunities as they perform in senior centers, at community functions, and inside houses of worship.

Often professional jazz musicians on tour have volunteered in workshops and master classes when they stop in the District to perform at the Blues Alley supper club. Guest artists have included Quincy Jones, McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter, Jon Faddis, and Terrence Blanchard.

Our 2020/21 Season Begins Now!

The beat will go on! Here at BAYO, we pride ourselves in the quality of jazz education we provide. At the helm of that effort is our musical director and bassist, Michael Bowie ( His 40 year career working with greats such as the Manhattan Transfer, Slide Hampton Big Band, The Duke Ellington Orchestra, Sarah Vaughn, Joe Williams, and countless others, ensures that each student receives the highest quality instruction – direct from the source! Our record of facilitating graduating members of the orchestra, into the nation’s top universities, will not be deterred!

As we are taking every precaution to comply with regulations that will keep us safe during the pandemic, our operations will take on a new look this season. Here are the details:

Rehearsals will be conducted as online sectionals. Woodwind, trombone, trumpet, and rhythm section will meet weekly for 75-90 minutes in their sectionals, to work on music that will be made available in advance to each student via email. Each section will meet on a designated evening or weekend time slot that collectively works for the section. There will be three rehearsals each month, per section.
***Weather permitting, we will look into an outdoor, socially-distanced scenario, where the entire group may rehearse together. You will be consulted before any decisions are made in that regard.

There will be no performances scheduled until such time as the pandemic restrictions are lifted, and it is safe to do so. All future performance opportunities will be vetted by the executive director of BAYO, and ultimately approved by our orchestra parents.

Auditions – OPEN ENROLLMENT year round!
Returning BAYO members automatically retain their chair, upon approval of the musical director. We always have a few chairs open to new members, made vacant by our graduates. If you are interested in joining our orchestra, please read the instructions below. All submissions are accepted year round! 

Blues Alley Youth Orchestra Auditions Materials and Requirements

Videotape submission should not exceed 7 minutes total. You must state your name, grade entering/school attending, and email address on the video. Upload your video to YouTube, and create a private link. Send that link to: You will be contacted via email with your results.

1. Play (vocalist sing/scat) one chorus of Charlie Parker’s “Au Privave”, and two choruses of improvisation after the melody. Bass players will also walk for two choruses.
2. Self Selections. Play (sing) two songs of contrasting styles, swing, be-bop, Latin, etc.
3. Excerpts and Scales. Play the excerpt for your instrument(s) from the “pdf” file linked below and the major scales through four (4) sharps and five (5) flats from memory at mm=98. Vocalists should sing the scales.

EXCERPTS: Play the excerpts for your instrument from the link below.



Bass Trombone






Vibraphone (same as guitar)

Registration and Payment:
Each selected member of the orchestra will receive an email with registration and payment instructions. The yearly fee is $750. Payment plans may be arranged at the discretion of the executive director of BAYO.

Registration form

Blues Alley Youth Orchestra Registration/Payment:

Blues Alley Youth Orchestra Payment

All Youth Orchestra participants are required to complete and submit the Emergency Contact and Insurance Waiver forms!! (PDF)

CADET Program

CADET Program
The Blues Alley Cadet program is a deep dive into the language of jazz music. Music is a language, which is spoken by imitation. As all languages are acquired in this manner, Michael Bowie will guide your student through this unique process of listening, singing, and performing it on their instrument. Once the student experiences the feeling and flow of the culture through active participation, they will begin to analyze this newly acquired language from a theoretical perspective, while we focus on building their knowledge of scales, that we’ll use in this regard. ***All levels of experience welcomed***

We are taking every precaution to comply with pandemic regulations that will keep us safe. There will be 10 one on one sessions mutually scheduled, which will be conducted online only. There will be no more than one (1) makeup session offered for any class missed by the student.

Registration and Payment:
Each parent will receive an email with registration and payment instructions. The yearly fee is $350. Payment plans may be arranged at the discretion of the executive director of BAYO.

Registration form


The Blues Alley Youth Orchestra performs at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage