Applying and General Questions

How do I apply?

Applications for 2023 will open in July 2022. 

You apply online and via a video audition. 

Do I need to be vaccinated against COVID 19 ?

Yes, all musicians are required to be up to date with their COVID 19 vaccinations to enrol and participate in SYO Programs. 

Read more about our COVID Safety Policies 


What is the cost of auditioning?

All 2021 SYO members re-applying will be charged a $50.00 audition fee. Applicants new to SYO will be charged a $60.00 audition fee. These fees are payable at the time of your audition application and contribute to the booking of professional panellists, venue hire and administration for your audition.

Key Dates and Timelines

All key dates and an overview of the audition process can be found here:
– Applications Open: Thursday, July 1
– Applications Close: Wednesday, September 1
– Late Audition Confirmation: Wednesday, September 8
– Sight Reading Details Sent: Friday, 17 September
– Video Submissions Open: Friday, September 24
– Video Submissions Close: Friday, October 1, Midnight
– Sight Reading Auditions: Saturday, October 16, 23 & 30
– Scholarship Application Open: Monday, October 4
– Scholarship Applications Close: Monday, November 29
– Offers/Scholarship Results Sent: Monday, December 13

In-Person Percussion Auditions

Percussion auditions will be held in person to allow for access to instruments. Percussionists must provide their own mallets. If percussionists have access to all instruments (timpani, glockenspiel, xylophone, tambourine and snare drum) elsewhere for recording, they can also choose to submit a video audition. Percussion audition dates & times will be sent via email on Wednesday, September 8.


Which level should I audition for?

SYO members are encouraged to audition for the stage immediately above their 2021 placement. From this, our team of experienced panellists will determine whether you are ready to move up a stage or require another year in your current placement.
For new applicants, please look at the guidelines listed on the orchestra pages and consult with your instrumental teacher prior to applying, as they will have the best idea of which ensemble will be the most appropriate for you and your level. Check out the guide below for an idea of how the levels are organised:

Can I change my Orchestra Preference after applying?

Yes. If you applied and noticed you would like to change your preference, please contact the SYO Team on [email protected] and we can amend your audition application. No need to submit a new application.

Can I be considered for multiple orchestras in my application?

Yes, but only for the same instrument. When applying for an orchestra, you are also automatically being considered for all other applicable groups below. This means that if the panel assesses you are not quite ready for your orchestra preference, you will be considered for other orchestras at a similar or lower standard and offered a spot there (depending on availability).
If you would like to apply on a different instrument, please see the ‘What if I want to audition on two instruments?’ section below.

I have already auditioned before. Why is it necessary to audition again each year?

Like all state-based youth orchestras in Australia, SYO auditions all players –  each year – on a competitive basis. Competitive auditions are the accepted method of equitably assessing an orchestra’s members and ensuring that players of similar ability are placed together. As a training organisation, auditions are a key part of becoming a professional musician and as such we aim to prepare our musicians for this experience. There are two main reasons that we audition each year:

  • Individual players progress at different rates. Placements are based on playing ability in the context of all auditionees, not on membership length. Each year there will be some players from an ensemble who are ready to face the challenges of another ensemble and some who will benefit more from continuing with their current group.
  •  There are new members auditioning for Sydney Youth Orchestras each year. By hearing all players, new and existing, auditioning for an orchestra, we can be sure that our standards are high, and that placement is fair and appropriate for everyone. This provides balance within each ensemble and maximum benefit for its members.
Is any consideration given to existing members when they compete with new members?

Sydney Youth Orchestras’ policy states that if there are two players of the same standard competing for a place and one is an existing member, preference is given to that member. However, if the new member auditions at a higher standard than the existing member, this does not apply.

When will I receive my orchestral excerpts?

Once your audition application and fee has been processed you will receive an email with a link to your Audition Excerpts. Please contact us via [email protected] if you completed your application and have not received your excerpts e-mail. Be sure to check your spam/junk mail if you do not receive your excerpts immediately, as they may have been delivered there.

What is the weekly commitment that I need to adhere to?

With limited and highly sought-after places each year, it is a significant achievement to be offered a position with SYO. Successful applicants must commit to attending weekly rehearsals for their orchestra for the full year. This is an annual program of learning and development. Musicians are occasionally required to participate in extra rehearsals or workshops outside scheduled rehearsal times.
Members of The Sydney Youth Orchestra (Flagship) will have a program-based schedule to be advised at enrolment, which may involve shorter, intensive rehearsal periods based around tertiary and pre-professional schedules. Any SYO musician with insufficient attendance and participation may jeopardise their position in the program.

When and where are rehearsals?

Rehearsals take place at: 

SYO Strings - Santa Sabina College, Strathfield on Saturdays

SYO Symphonic - CBD Saturdays and Sundays 

Western Sydney Youth Orchestra - Western Sydney Tuesday Nights 

The SYO - CBD 


What if I want to audition on two instruments?

If your second instrument is auxiliary (e.g. piccolo or bass clarinet), your video will be seen by the same audition panel. Therefore, you will not be required to pay a second audition fee. If auditioning for auxiliary instruments, play the optional excerpts relevant to your orchestra preference during your video audition.

If you are auditioning on two different instruments (e.g. violin and oboe), you video will be assessed by two different panels on different excerpts. In this case you will be required to pay two audition fees. Two separate videos must be submitted, one for each instrument.

As part of SYO’s Endangered Instrument Program, applicants who undertake a second audition on either viola, double bass or bassoon are granted this second audition free of charge. You can indicate if you are auditioning for one of these on your form. Please select the non-endangered instrument first and then include the endangered instrument in the application. For more information about the endangered instruments program, see here

What is an “endangered instrument”?

An “endangered instrument” is any uncommon instrument that is in high demand within orchestras – not only at SYO, but within tertiary and professional orchestras around Australia. It can be difficult to find the right number of musicians for certain instruments such as violas, bassoons and double basses. This also means that we need to restrict the number of violin or flute players that we can accept, or otherwise the whole orchestra will be unbalanced.

Musicians who play these instruments will often find that they are placed on an accelerated track through the SYO program due to the demand for these instrumentalists.
Dependent upon the instrument, SYO can help you transition to one of these endangered instruments, by offering:

  • A free audition to this new instrument when auditioning for your current instrument
  • Loaning* you an instrument for a period of six months
  • Connecting you to a tutor

dependent on availability

I requested a late audition, what happens next?


Late auditions spots are limited and reserved for musicians undertaking their HSC in 2021 or going through exceptional circumstances. If you are doing your HSC in 2021 and have requested a late audition date, you will have a later video submission date, which will be confirmed via email on Wednesday September 8.

Late audition requests for other reasons cannot be guaranteed but will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and will be confirmed or declined via email on Wednesday September 8. If you are not approved for a late submission date, your video submission date remains Friday, October 1.


What should I do in preparation for my audition?

First of all, please read the audition excerpt cover sheet very carefully for full instructions. Take your excerpts to your tutor and ask for their advice on preparation and own choice piece selection. Be sure to check your junk mail if you do not receive your excerpts immediately.

What are the key elements in an SYO Audition?

SYO Strings Program – Please prepare all excerpts for your chosen Stage

SYO Symphonic Orchestral Program – Please read each excerpt’s instructions carefully and prepare all excerpts relevant to the ensemble you are auditioning for.

SYO Strings:
Please prepare scales and arpeggios exactly as outlined in your excerpts document. Pay attention to indicated tempos, bowings and articulation.

Symphonic Orchestral Program Strings:
Violin & Cello: prepare a G Melodic Minor Scale and Arpeggio (3 Octaves)
Viola: prepare a C Melodic Minor Scale and Arpeggio (3 Octaves)
Double Bass: prepare a G Melodic Minor Scale and Arpeggio (2 or 3 Octaves)

Scales and arpeggios should be played in the following two ways:
– Spiccato quavers at crotchet = 130 – 150, arpeggios to be played in triplets
– Slurred quavers in sevens at crotchet = 100 – 120, arpeggios to be played in triplets

Brass and Woodwinds:
Woodwind and Brass players should prepare a B Melodic Minor Scale and Arpeggio in the following two ways:
– As many octaves as possible for your instrument, staccato quavers at crotchet = 100 – 120, arpeggios to be played in triplets
– As many octaves as possible for your instrument, slurred quavers at crotchet = 100 – 120, arpeggios to be played in triplets

Harp and Percussions:
Harpists and percussionists are not required to play scales.

Own Choice Piece – Up to 3 minutes of a piece of your own choosing.

What should I choose for the piece of my own choice?

This should be a piece (or passage from a longer piece) that best displays your musicality and technical proficiency. There is a time limit of 3 minutes on your own choice piece. It is strongly advised that this piece be from an examination syllabus such as AMEB, Trinity College London or ABRSM. You are also encouraged to choose something you are familiar with and can perform comfortably under pressure and without an accompanist. If unsure, please discuss with your tutor.


How long should my video audition be?

SYO Video Auditions have no limit on total time or file size but can only contain elements relevant to your audition (excerpts, scales/arpeggios, own choice piece). The only time limit applied is to your own choice piece, which is a maximum of 3 minutes. If your own choice piece exceeds 3 minutes, the panel may not watch anything past the 3 minute mark.

What video formats are acceptable for submission?

Any video format is acceptable. These include: MP4, MPEG-4, MOV and WMV. If we have difficulty playing your file, we may contact you requesting a resubmission.

How do I trim a video?

Trimming a video can help your audition look neater and more professional.

  • On Android Devices: Read how to here
  • On IOS Devices: Watch tutorial video here
  • On a Windows Computer: Read how to here
  • On a Mac Computer: Read how to here
Tips for recording a video audition

What you’ll need for a great video audition:

  • Quiet space
  • Music stand/something to put your music on
  • Your audition excerpts and own choice piece print music
  • Video recording device
  • Your instrument!
What device should I use to record my audition?

You can record yourself using a wide range of devices—video camera, laptop, or a webcam on your desktop computer. The simplest, though, is just use a smartphone. Many phones have excellent video and audio quality that are more than acceptable for your video audition. No need to get fancy—the panel aren’t expecting the highest professional quality video, just a decent recording of your playing.

Should I be sitting or standing?

This is up to you and what instrument you play! However, we find that for instruments that you can play while standing up, playing upright better displays your posture and technique.

Where should I record?

An important part of recording a good audition video is preparing your recording space. Some things to keep in mind when picking a space to record:

  • Try to pick the largest space available to you, like a living room or dining room.
  • Choose a time when the space will be quiet for at least an hour. Since you’ll most likely be recording your video at home, so it’s a good idea to talk with your family ahead of time and pick a time when things will be relatively quiet.
  • Consider making a sign to remind your family that you’re recording so that they don’t interrupt. This will help remind them that you’re doing important work!
  • Try and record in front of a blank wall in a tidy room that has minimal distractions. Cleaning up the space will help prepare you to perform well and will also give your audition panel a more professional impression.
  • Ensure that the room is well-lit. You need to see your music and the panel need to see you! Turn on lamps (bring in extras from another room, if necessary). Avoid back-lighting (where a bright light source behind you turns you into a silhouette on camera) by placing bright lights/windows behind the camera, not behind you.
How should I set up my recording device?

Once you’ve settled on a time and place to record, you need to set up your recording device.

  • Make sure that your camera/phone is resting on a stable surface—you don’t want to ruin a great take with a falling camera! If you don’t have a phone tripod, don’t worry—most people don’t. Just get creative. You can use books, or pillows, or even another music stand to prop up your device and make sure you’re getting the right shot. Also be sure that you’re not covering your microphone and do plenty of test runs to ensure everything looks and sounds great!
  • Try to place your recording device at least 2-3 metres away for better audio quality. If that’s not possible in your space, place it as far as away as you can.
  • Whether you are sitting or standing, your upper body should be included in the shot. This helps the panel assess your technique and posture. For the purposes of the audition, you want to make sure that the panel can see everything that you’re doing
I do not have a device I can record my video audition on. What should I do?

SYO is committed to ensuring everyone can get the assistance they need to record a video audition. If you do not have a device you can record your audition on, please contact SYO Staff on [email protected] so we can assist you with your audition arrangements.

Can I edit my audition video together?

No, your audition must be filmed in one continuous shot. You must play all elements of your audition (Excerpts, Scales/Arpeggios, Own Choice Piece) in one continuous shot with no sound or video editing. Any detection of tampering will result in your audition being invalidated.

Can I have an accompanist or other people in my video?

No, the excerpts provided do not require an accompanist. You should also choose a solo excerpt that is able to be performed unaccompanied. Any detection of an accompanist or teacher/guardian playing alongside an auditionee will result in your audition being invalidated.

A detailed set of instructions are listed at the front of each 2022 Audition Excerpt Pack. Register for a 2022 Audition to receive your instrument specific instructions.

Need more advice on how to record your video? Check out an example audition application here


How do I submit my video audition?

On Friday, September 24 you will be sent a personalised link to submit your video. This will include a window where you can upload your video and a short form to include some details we need to know. Do not leave this to the very last minute! Uploading a video can take several hours.

Please practice recording your audition a few times prior to the audition submission date to get it just right. Just because the submission portal opens on Friday, September 24 does not mean you can’t have your audition video finished and ready to submit.

Can I change my video audition submission date?

In most circumstances, no. Auditions scheduling is extremely onerous for SYO to schedule over 800 audition viewings with relevant panellists.

We provide exemptions for health (with a medical certificate) and extenuating circumstances, which must be communicated to SYO to be assessed individually. If you miss your submission deadline without one of these reasons, or without providing written evidence (i.e. medical certificate), you will be considered to have forfeited your audition and you must contact SYO if you still wish to be considered.

What is the deadline to submit?

Main round video auditions must be submitted no later than Midnight on Friday the 1st of October. For late auditions, please consult your late audition confirmation e-mail.

I missed the video submission deadline, what should I do?

Please contact the SYO Team on [email protected] to discuss your individual case!

How should I name my video file?

SYO deals with over 800 video auditions each year. To ensure we get your video audition to the correct panel, we request your video file be named according to this rule:

How can I change the name of my video file on my device?

We do not recommend uploading your video directly from your mobile device. The best way to upload your audition is using a desktop/laptop computer, where you can easily rename a file by right-clicking on it and selecting “rename”.

My video is taking too long to upload, what can I do?

Try uploading your video overnight or on times when there is less internet traffic. If you are still unable to upload your video, you can try compressing your file using services like: https://www.freeconvert.com/video-compressor

Please let SYO know if you are experiencing technical difficulties and we are happy to assist.

Can I re-submit my video audition?

If you are unhappy with your original submission and it is before the submission deadline (Midnight Friday, October 1) then yes you may re-submit. If this affects you, please email SYO staff at [email protected]. You may not re-submit after the submission deadline.

How do I know if my video has been received?

Once your video has been successfully submitted, you will receive a confirmation email. If there are any issues with your submission, you will be contacted by the SYO team as to how it can be amended.

What happens to my video after it is submitted?

After your video is submitted it will be sent to our panel for assessment. Your video will not be shared with anyone else and will only be kept in our system as long as needed for assessment purposes.

Assessment and Offers

Do I get any feedback on my audition?

No. All information gained through the audition process is private and confidential. Sydney Youth Orchestras will not enter into a conversation that concerns an applicant’s audition results with the applicant, their parents/guardians or teachers. This mirrors the audition processes in the music profession and Sydney Youth Orchestras strives to prepare musicians for the reality of professional audition and performance standards and procedures.

Are AMEB grades taken into consideration?

No. The audition panel places auditionees based on their playing ability as demonstrated in their video audition only, not their AMEB or Suzuki grades. Grades are used as a commonly understood standard of playing to assist auditionees in selecting the right ensemble to audition for. Auditionees do not need to have passed exams to gain a position – nor does having passed an exam guarantee a player a position.

How is the seating and section worked out?

The audition panel will make seating recommendations after watching all videos. There is no compelling musical reason to place players from strongest to weakest – in fact, just the opposite. In SYO, players are often rotated around different sections throughout the year and, in particular, this notion is encouraged in our younger ensembles. Musicians learn to play next to different players, and also learn the importance of different roles that make up an orchestra of equally valuable sections.

Is everyone who auditions for SYO offered a position?

Because of the way SYO is structured, we are usually able to offer a position to most string players who audition, however this will not necessarily be in the ensemble for which you applied. Based on your performance in your audition, the SYO audition panel will allocate you a position within the ensemble that will be most beneficial for you, and allow you to work with other musicians of a similar standard and experience.

For wind, brass and percussion, positions can be much more competitive, particularly for The SYO and SYO Philharmonic, as there are a limited number of positions for each instrument within these orchestras. For example, in 2018, SYO had over 65 flautists audition for 23 spots across the full program. Some musicians may be offered a ‘reserve’ result, which means that an offer could not be made due to limited places in a particular orchestra being offered to other auditionees, however a ‘reserve’ player may be offered a position if someone else declines a place.

When are offers sent out?

Offers will be sent out via e-mail on Monday, 13th December. Make sure [email protected] is listed as a trusted contact and check your inbox/spam folder on that day!


Will I need to do a Sight-Reading Audition?

New applicants for the SYO Strings Program Stages 1, 2, 3 & the Richard Gill Chamber Orchestra [SYO Strings Stage 4] will be required to attend a 5-minute virtual sight reading audition. This will be held in October via Zoom. Sight-reading audition times and dates will be confirmed via email on Friday, 17 September.

Current SYO Strings members and applicants for the SYO Symphonic Program (SWO, PSO, WSYO, SYOP, The SYO) do not have a sight-reading audition.

What can I do to prepare for a sight-reading audition?

The best way to prepare for any audition is with the help of your tutor. They can teach you all the tips and tricks of sight-reading!

In addition, here are 10 useful sight-reading tips:

What will I need for my sight-reading audition?

You will need your instrument and a device that can connect to Zoom (ex. Laptop, Tablet or Mobile Phone). Devices with a bigger screen are recommended, as you will be reading off the screen.

How to Download Zoom
You do not need a zoom account for this audition. All you need is to download the program Zoom on your device and join our meeting. Zoom is free and easy to download, and is compatible with most devices.

On a desktop/laptop computer: Go to https://zoom.us/download and from the Download Centre, click on the Download button under “Zoom Client For Meetings”.

On a mobile device: Download and install the app “Zoom Cloud Meetings” on your devices app store (Apple Store, Google Play etc.)

How will Zoom Sight-Reading Auditions Work?

You will be assigned a 15-minute time slot with a few other auditionees. Please warm up before this time and be ready to join around 5 minutes before your time slot. You can then join the waiting room and will be let into the Zoom Meeting by an SYO Staff Member, by order of arrival. You will then be able to do a short microphone test before starting your audition.

You will then be sent to a Zoom Breakout Room where your audition panel will be waiting. The panel will screen share a short piece which you will be able to see on your device. You will be given a few moments to look at the piece and will then be required to play. This portion will only take around 2-3 minutes, however plan to be available for the entire 15-minute time slot.

What can I do to Test/Improve my Sound Quality on Zoom?

To improve your sound quality on Zoom, please use the Original Sound Mode. You can find instructions on how to do that here: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/115003279466-Enabling-option-to-preserve-original-sound

To test your sound before your audition, you call a family member/friend on Zoom and test that they can hear you properly. As long as they can hear your sound without experiencing interruptions, you are set for your audition!

Scholarships and Regional Membership

Can I be a part of SYO if I am not based in Sydney?

SYO is pleased to welcome young musicians who would like to be part of our program and are based in Regional NSW. A tailored hybrid rehearsal schedule, including a flexible attendance plan and contribution discounts are designed to remove geographical barriers to participation. To be classified a regional musician you must live over 200km from the Sydney CBD.

Please contact SYO to discuss this further before applying.

Can I apply for a scholarship?

Yes! Scholarships are available to support young musicians and their families who face financial hardship or circumstances that would otherwise prevent them from joining SYO. To receive more information and a scholarship form, be sure to check the appropriate box on your online audition application. There are also scholarships for tertiary, regional and principal chairs. Read more about our scholarships here.

How do I apply for a scholarship?

When applying for your audition, please remember to check the appropriate box when asked about financial assistance. All applicants that have selected that option will then be sent a scholarship application form on Monday, October 4. Applications for scholarships close on Monday, November 29. Please note that for an application to be valid all requested questions must be answered and attachments/evidence provided

When are scholarship results announced?

Scholarship results are announced on the same day as audition results (Monday, 13 December). Any received scholarship value will be reflected directly on your enrolment form.

Does our main program not sound like the right fit for you?
SYO offers a range of open holiday programs that do not require auditioning or membership to attend.

Holiday and Open Programs

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