prelude orchestra

Prelude Orchestra

for students in 4th through 8th grade 

The Prelude Orchestra is a strings only ensemble. Students need to have studied their instruments for at least 2 years and demonstrate, in their audition, two sharps and two flats in first position. Experience in third position is desired but not required. Students in this group MUST be able to read music and must be familiar with the concept of, and received an introduction to, shifting.

Academy Orchestra

for students in 7th through 12th grade

The Academy Orchestra is the intermediate-level ensemble with a full complement of strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion. Entrance is by audition only. String players must demonstrate facility above 1st position and in keys up to 4 sharps and 4 flats. Woodwind and Brass players must be at the level to make All-Region Band and Orchestra.

Youth Orchestra

for students in 8th through 12th grade 

The Youth Orchestra consists of the most advanced string, woodwind, brass and percussion players from around the state. Entrance is by audition only and for those whose audition demonstrates familiarity with advanced techniques, in order to perform the standard orchestral repertoire. Students may have opportunities to participate in masterclasses with visiting ASO guest artists, and have opportunities to receive coaching and performance opportunities in small chamber ensembles. In some circumstances, students auditioning for the woodwind and brass sections may be placed in the group on a probationary basis, with the opportunity to audition later for a tenured spot in the orchestra. Selected woodwind and brass students can be up to age 20.

Tuition Information

Tuition per school year is $400 for all groups.
You may pay online here or via check payable to the ASOYE.
Mail to the:
ASO Youth Orchestra Manager
PO Box 7328
Little Rock, AR 72217

Meet the Conductors

Andrew Irvin

Andrew Irvin, Prelude Orchestra Conductor

Contact Info:

Andrew Irvin started his violin studies in his hometown of Columbia, Missouri with Kathy Rollings. This childhood interest has lead to a life of concerts throughout North America and abroad. After study with Kevin Lawrence at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Catherine Tait at Eastman, and Katy McLin at Arizona State University, he moved to Arkansas where he has been Concertmaster of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. His solo repertoire ranges from Bach and Vivaldi through Mozart and Haydn to Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Korngold, and Vaughn-Williams and includes the world premier of Michael Fines’ Double Violin Concerto.

Andrew’s chamber music highlights include performances with artists including violinist Augustin Hadelich, the Ying Quartet, the Audubon Quartet, bassist Milton Masciadri, and composer Steve Mackey. Most exciting for him is the opportunity to make music with the excellent artists of the Arkansas Symphony which he considers his artistic home. He has numerous chamber ensembles playing everything from world premieres to the favorites of the chamber music repertoire. Recordings include the Camino Trio with clarinetist, Kelly Johnson, and pianist Gail Novak. The CD “Child’s Play” is out on the Potenza label. He can also be heard in recording on the Naxos label with the Hot Springs Music Festival (HSMF). As an educator, Mr Irvin has worked with HSMF since 2003. Through the festival, he has mentored hundreds of musicians from over 19 countries and from every major music school in North America. He also has worked with the Arkansas Symphony’s Youth Orchestra program as a coach since 2003 and conductor for over 10 years.

Mr. Irvin was the progenitor of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s Bedtime with Bach series, an online concert series originating in March 2020 and known for receiving national press and reaching hundreds of thousands of people around the globe. In 2021 he was awarded Musical America’s Top 30 Professionals of the Year for his work with Bedtime with Bach.

Mr. Irvin works with a select private studio and his students have attended music festivals schools across the US, many with scholarships. Some of the schools include Ithaca, SUNY-Fredonia, Yale, Smith College, Arizona State University, Florida State University, St Olaf, Texas Tech, Interlochen Academy, Johns Hopkins, University of Michigan, Calvin College and many of Arkansas’ fine music schools. He plays a 1765 Gagliano violin.

Kiril Laskarov

Kiril Laskarov, Prelude Orchestra Conductor

Contact Info:

Kiril Laskarov is in his 24th season as Concertmaster of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. He has served as Orchestra Director/Instrumental Music Instructor at the Episcopal Collegiate School in Little Rock since 2005 and also as conductor of the Prelude Orchestra, one of the Arkansas Symphony Youth Ensembles, since 2012.

A graduate of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale where he studied with Prof. Michael Barta, Laskarov has appeared as a soloist with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Las Vegas (NV) Philharmonic, Conway (AR) Symphony, Southern Illinois Symphony, Abilene (TX) Philharmonic, Symphony Irvine (CA), and the Texarkana (TX) Symphony. Highlights of the 2022/23 season include performances of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Monroe (LA) Symphony Orchestra, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and the Southern Illinois Festival Orchestra.

Tom McDonald

Tom McDonald, Academy Orchestra Conductor

Tom McDonald has been a violinist in the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra since 1976, and he is also a member of the Conway Symphony Orchestra. Tom served the Pine Bluff Symphony as assistant conductor, concertmaster, principal second, and youth orchestra conductor at different periods throughout its 25-year history.
Tom was an orchestra director in the Little Rock Public Schools from 1978 to 2015. He taught at Central, Hall, J. A. Fair, and Parkview High Schools as well as Dunbar, Henderson, Mann, Mabelvale, and Pulaski Heights Middle Schools.
Tom has conducted the Arkansas Symphony Academy Youth Orchestra since 1998, and he has served on the music faculty at Arkansas Governor’s School since 2000.
Gabriel Bruce - conductor

Gabriel Bruce, Youth Orchestra Conductor

Contact Info:

Conductor and music educator Gabriel Bruce currently serves as orchestra director at Mills University Studies High School and Mills Middle School in Pulaski County, and has previously taught orchestra in the Pine Bluff schools in Arkansas, where he also served as music director of the Pine Bluff Symphony Youth Orchestra.

A native Arkansan, Gabriel started his musical studies playing trumpet at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, where he received his Bachelor of Music Education and discovered a passion for the orchestra and conducting. While at UCA, he began studying conducting with the Arkansas Symphony’s David Itkin and formed the Conway Chamber Orchestra, a volunteer community orchestra which yielded his first experiences leading an orchestra and conducting major orchestral literature.

Mr. Bruce received his Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting from The Hartt School, where he studied with Christopher Zimmerman and led or assisted in many performances of various ensembles including the Contemporary Players Ensemble and the Hartt Symphony Orchestra. He has studied at the Conductors’ Institute at Bard as a Fellow with Harold Farberman, Lawrence Golan, and Marcus Paris, at the Rose City International Conductors’ Workshop as an Emerging Artist with Kenneth Woods, David Hoose, and Christopher Zimmerman, as well as workshops at SUNY Fredonia and the University of Denver hosted by the Conductor’s Guild.