Youth Orchestras & Ensembles

About Wichita Symphony Youth Orchestras & Ensembles

The Wichita Symphony Youth Orchestras Program (WSYO) brings classical music to life for young people in south central Kansas. This program is a key educational outreach arm of the Wichita Symphony and shares in its mission to enrich, educate, and entertain diverse audiences of all ages in our region through performances of orchestral music, thereby enhancing the vibrancy and vitality of Wichita.

Founded in 1947, WSYO’s Youth Symphony is a charter member of the Youth Symphony Orchestra Division of the League of American Orchestras. Today, the Wichita Symphony Youth Orchestras Program is made up of four ensembles that serve over 250 students from 22 cities and towns in central Kansas and northern Oklahoma. WSYO ensembles include the Youth Symphony, Repertory Orchestra, Youth Chamber Players, and Wind Ensemble. For full descriptions of the ensembles, click here

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Membership Auditions

Click here for information about 2022-2023 season auditions!

Meet our Conductors & Staff

Youth Symphony

Dr. Mark Laycock
Director of Youth Orchestras & Ensembles Program
Youth Symphony Conductor
Fred and Mary Koch Foundation Endowed Chair

Dr. Mark Laycock is a Professor of Music at Wichita State University, where he holds the Ann Walenta Faculty of Distinction Endowed Professorship. He serves as Director of Orchestras and Coordinator of Strings. A member of the Board of Directors of the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic, he is also Conductor of the Wichita Youth Symphony. His work as guest conductor, clinician, or adjudicator spans 34 states. Dr. Laycock has served the National Orchestra Festival as adjudicator, clinician, and, in 2018 and 2019, chair of the event. Dr. Laycock has presented clinic sessions for numerous state education conventions, as well as the American String Teachers Association National Conference, the Northwest and Northeast Division Conventions of the National Association for Music Education, and the Midwest Clinic. A frequent visitor to Australia, he will be a Keynote Speaker for the 2021 Australian National Band and Orchestra Conference. Dr. Laycock is a four-time invited music education panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, evaluating grant applications from institutions throughout the country. He is a chapter author for the fourth volume of Teaching Music through Performance in Orchestra and a frequent contributor to the American String Teacher journal. 

Repertory Orchestra

Dr. Wesley DeSpain
Repertory Orchestra Conductor

Delmar and Mary Klocke Endowed Chair 

Dr. Wesley DeSpain began directing the high school and middle school orchestras of the Derby Public Schools in the Fall of 2010. He conducted the Friends University Community Orchestra from 2010 – 2014. He began conducting the Wichita Symphony Repertory Youth Orchestra in the Fall of 2014 and is currently in his tenth season as Music Director and Conductor of the Delano Chamber Orchestra. Dr. DeSpain was Interim Director of Orchestras at Wichita State University for two years (2004 - 2006) and performed as clarinetist with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra for 25 seasons (1984 - 2009). His summer activities include leading orchestras at Camp Allegro and directing a youth program sponsored by the Delano Chamber Players that includes three orchestras. He was a member of the Wichita Youth Symphony during his junior and senior years at Wichita High School East. Dr. DeSpain holds degrees from Baptist Bible College (B.A.), Wichita State University (B.M.E., M.M.E., M.M.), and the University of Oklahoma (D.M.A.). He served as Chair of the Kansas Music Educators Association All-State Orchestra from 2015 – 2017 and is the current All-State Full Orchestra chair until 2023.  

Youth Chamber Players

Eric L. Crawford
Youth Chamber Players Conductor

Mr. Crawford is Director of Orchestras at Wichita High School East and is the Orchestra Curriculum Coach for USD 259, Wichita Public Schools.  A native of Dayton, Ohio, he has made Wichita his home, playing in the Wichita Symphony bass section for over 20 seasons. The recipient of numerous awards including the Wichita Public Schools’ Good Apple Award, Wichita Arts Council's Burton Pell Award and the Wichita Symphony's Sevart Award, he served as President of the Kansas String Teacher's Association from 2013-2017. He has also served as Chair of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra Committee, and as President of Wichita Musician’s Association.

Youth Wind Ensemble

Dr. Timothy Shade
Youth Wind Ensemble Conductor

Dr. Timothy Shade is currently the Director of Bands at Wichita State University. His responsibilities include leading the WSU Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Concert Band, coordinating the graduate wind conducting program and teaching various courses within the school of music. Previous appointments include Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Alhambra Orchestra (FL), Visiting Director of Orchestras at Florida Atlantic University, and Director of Instrumental Music at Bethel College (KS). He has garnered praise for his exciting programming, engaging personality and “marvelous conducting.” Equally comfortable in the orchestral and wind realms, Shade has worked with Greater Miami Symphonic Band, The New River Orchestra, The Naples Philharmonic, The Frost Wind Ensemble, The Florida Youth Symphony, The Wichita Wind Ensemble, The Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra, and the Delano Chamber Orchestra.

Tiffany Bell Rhodes

Manager of Education and Community Partnerships
Wichita Symphony Orchestra

As Education Manager, Tiffany Bell Rhodes oversees operations of all Wichita Symphony Youth Orchestras and Wind Ensemble activities. For any questions regarding our youth ensembles, contact Tiffany at:
316.267.5259 xt 105

Support the WSYO Program


If you'd like to support the WSYO program, please contact Tiffany Rhodes at to discuss sponsorship options.

Thank You to Our WSYO Sponsors!

Wichita Symphony Youth Orchestras activities are made possible with the generous support provided by The City of Wichita, The Sam and Rie Bloomfield Foundation, Fidelity Bank, and Cessna and Beechcraft by Textron Aviation.

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