Founded in 1995 by Salim Nakhjavani, the Mount Royal Youth Orchestra (MRYO – formerly the Westmount Youth Orchestra) is based on a family atmosphere and a love of music. As a future law student, Salim laid a solid foundation for the MRYO to grow, and found dedicated Board members and coaches who were motivated to offer young musicians of all levels an environment conducive to their development. The orchestra gave its first concerts at Victoria Hall in Westmount, under the direction of conductor Mark Simons and Anthony Rozankovic, assisted by string coaches Margaret Lysy, violin, and James Darling, cello. Jean MacRae, violin and viola, joined the team as string coach in 1996. Mark Simons was musical director from 1996 to 2004, followed by Josée Laforest and Scott Gabriel. Jean MacRae has been the Artistic Director since 2011. In 1999, the String Ensemble was created with the aim of encouraging younger musicians and preparing them for entry into the Symphony Orchestra. An intermediate string ensemble, Dolce Musica, was created in 2003, and an intermediate Wind Ensemble in 2019. The Mount Royal Youth Orchestra family now has more than 150 musicians between 5 and 25 years old in four ensembles: the String Ensemble, Dolce Musica, Wind Ensemble and the Symphony Orchestra.
The mission of the Mount Royal Youth Orchestra (MRYO) is to provide young musicians ages 5 to 25 with the opportunity to learn and play together under the direction of professional and dedicated leaders and instructors. The objectives of the orchestra are to introduce young people to the pleasure and joy of making music in the context of a larger ensemble, to broaden and develop their knowledge of the great orchestral repertoire, to stimulate their passion and to nurture their appreciation of classical music. In addition, the orchestra wants to introduce them to the discipline required for high performance performances and to teach them how to develop it while giving them the opportunity to share their passion and enthusiasm by presenting concerts in the community. The orchestra offers young musicians an enriching experience that will remain etched in their memory for life, whether they become professional musicians, teachers, amateur musicians or mere listeners.