Who We Are   

Currently in its fourth season, the TRENTON YOUTH ORCHESTRA (TYO) is a string orchestra, run by Princeton students, that serves high school students from Trenton public schools. During weekly rehearsals, TYO members work under the instruction of their coaches to hone their string technique, enrich their musicianship, and develop an understanding of the many nuances of collaborative performance. TYO members also receive free weekly private lessons from Princeton student volunteers. All volunteers are trained in string pedagogy by TYO’s Teaching Fellow and a member of Princeton’s violin performance faculty, Anna Lim. 

At the end of every semester, TYO holds a concert in Rockefeller College, and has also performed in Mathey College, Forbes College, and the Lee Rehearsal Room. In the past, TYO has collaborated with members of the Princeton University Orchestra, Sinfonia, Glee Club, Trego Singers, and Princeton Pianists Ensemble. Last year, the orchestra gave a special performance for Gustavo Dudamel as part of his welcome tour of Princeton University. 


TYO is part of the Saturday Morning Arts program facilitated by Trenton Arts at Princeton (TAP), the University's coordinator of arts outreach activities in the Greater Trenton area. TAP is a collaboration between the Department of Music, Lewis Center for the Arts, and Pace Center for Civic Engagement.

   What We Do   

Rehearsals:  We rehearse every Saturday, from 10 AM to 12 PM, in the Lee Rehearsal Room in the Lewis Arts Complex. Half of rehearsal is usually dedicated to sectionals, the other half to ensemble work.

Private Lessons: We offer free private lessons, from Princeton student musicians, to members. Lessons are every Saturday, from 12 PM to 1 PM, right after orchestra rehearsal.

Concerts: At the end of every semester, we hold a free concert in Rockefeller College Common Room for an audience of students, faculty, and community members. 

Collaborations: Every semester, we perform at least one piece alongside or featuring Princeton student musicians. In the past, we have collaborated with members of the Princeton University Orchestra, Sinfonia, Glee Club, Trego Singers, and Pianists Ensemble.

Guest Performances: TYO frequently invites Princeton student musicians or student music groups to perform for members during rehearsal, after which the performer(s) engage(s) in a brief Q&A. In the past, we've been visited by piano quintets, opera singers, piano duets, a capella groups, and violin duets. 

Field Trips: Throughout the semester, we organize one or two free on-campus field trips for orchestra members. In the past, we have attended performances by the Princeton University Orchestra, Princeton University Players, Princeton University Pianists Ensemble, and Princeton Camerata.

Sectional with TYO Coach Mary Kim '19

Guest performance from student opera singer Caroline Zhao '19

Watching the Princeton University Orchestra

   Our History   

During the spring of his freshman year (2016), our founder Lou Chen '19 proposed an idea for a service project to Princeton University's Pace Center for Civic Engagement: to start a string orchestra, run by Princeton students, for Trenton high school students. In conversations with music educators in Trenton, Lou had discovered that string students in the high schools didn't receive specialized instruction and possessed less performing experience than band students. He realized that Princeton's talented student music community could be the solution to this need. That summer, the Pace Center approved his proposal, and he recruited three of his friends--Mary Kim '19, Elijah Ash '19, and Kristin Hauge '18--to help him start the orchestra.

Beginning that October, the four of them started attending orchestra rehearsal at Trenton Central High School once a week, where they played alongside and coached the violin students. This collaboration with the orchestra and its director, Joseph Pucciatti, was essential to TYO's beginnings. In December, the Princeton students invited those students to participate in a special workshop at Princeton University, during which they rehearsed and performed a few pieces for a small group of friends. At the end of the workshop, they asked the TCHS students if they wanted to form a string orchestra. They said yes--and the Trenton Youth Orchestra was born.

TYO began rehearsing every Saturday in a small house on Greenwood Avenue. There were only ten of us at first--six members and four Princeton student coaches--so we were able to cram into the living room. Once or twice, we were locked out of the house, and had to practice on the front lawn!

In May of that year, we held our debut concert at Princeton University. We performed four pieces: Celtica, featuring Elijah; Fiocco's Allegro, featuring TYO concertmaster Melki Garcia-Perez; Gabriel's Oboe, featuring Princeton Sinfonia oboist Sunny He '18; and Pirates of the Caribbean. A few days later, Lou received the Santos-Dumont Prize for Innovation for founding TYO. 

Since then, TYO has only grown. Once we had six members; now we have twenty, representing mainly Trenton but also a few surrounding townships. Two of our original members have remained in the orchestra, even as they have gone on to college. Trenton educators, especially those at TCHS, have proven to be invaluable collaborators in creating opportunities for Trenton young musicians. And most exciting of all, in September 2018, Princeton's Department of Music gave us a generous grant that has enabled us to move out of our Greenwood Avenue house and to Princeton University. As a result, we have begun offering free weekly private lessons to TYO members.

With the evolution of TYO has come a greater awareness among Princeton students about how they can leverage their musical talent to empower aspiring young musicians in Trenton. In addition to volunteering with TYO, Princeton students can participate in initiatives ranging from the TCHS-Princeton Collaborative Concert Series to the recently-developed "Tigers in Trenton!" performing arts showcase.


Most excitingly, TYO has spurred the creation of Trenton Arts @ Princeton, a Saturday morning arts enrichment program that not only includes TYO but also TYS, the Trenton Youth Singers. TYO has catalyzed the on-campus movement for accessible music education--and we're just getting started. 

The workshop that started it all!

Jamming outside of our rehearsal house

Pre-debut huddle

TYO, three years later!