RSYO History


Currently under the direction of Linc Smelser, the Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra (RSYO) has provided quality orchestral training for young people in the region for over four decades.

Founded in 1969 by Donald Zimmerman, the RSYO continues its affiliation with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra as its parent organization. Members of the RSO have led RSYO musicians as conductors and served as sectional coaches for the past fifteen years. Michael Beert who led RSYO from 1991-2001 plays principal cello in the RSO, and his predecessor Hsien-Liang Lien also served as a cello section musician with the RSO until his return to his native Taiwan in 2004. Most recently Alison Gaines conducted the orchestra for five seasons (2004-2009) while also serving as principal bass for the RSO.

Jack Simon, a Rockford musician active in a wide number of musical activities in the region and former RSYO conductor from 1979-1983, recently stated that the youth symphony experience gave him the special chance to work with a number of very talented students. "The Youth Symphony gave students an opportunity to learn and perform music they would possibly not have had a chance to experience,” commented Mr. Simon, “RSYO played an important role in supplementing the music experience students received in their high school band and orchestra programs.”

Conductors of the RSYO

Linc Smelser (2014-current)
Daniel Black (2009-2014)
Alison Gaines (2004-2009)
Hsien-Liang Lien (2001-2004)
Michael Beert (1991-2001)
Chelsea Tipton III (1989-1991)
Tim Juergensen (1983-1988)
Jack Simon (1979-1983)
Art Montzka (1978-1979)
Owen Seward (1977-1978)
Ernest Seeman (1974-1977)
Donald Zimmerman, founder (1969-1974)