Stites retires as conductor of Owensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra

August 29, 2022 | 12:07 am

Updated August 28, 2022 | 7:22 pm

Tom Stites | Photo provided

After 12 years as the conductor of the Owensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra, Tom Stites recently retired from his position. He is focusing on his position with Owensboro Public Schools and spending time with family.

“I’m the lucky one to have spent my entire conducting career surrounded by people who want to achieve excellence in music,” Stites said. “After 44 years of conducting, I have chosen to focus on my daily efforts as the Coordinator of Fine Arts with the Owensboro Public Schools, my family, and my work as an adjudicator and clinician. I hope the success we have enjoyed with the Owensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra continues far into the future.”

During Stites’ tenure with the Owensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra, the ensemble made great strides in their artistic excellence. In 2013 the Youth Orchestra collaborated with Jay Ungar, an American folk musician and composer, in a program that brought together regional orchestras for a combined performance in RiverPark Center’s Cannon Hall. There were two separate trips to Atlanta that combined professional-level performances with cultural experiences.

The highlight of recent years was the 2017 invitation for the Owensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra under Stites’ leadership to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The organization was able to ensure every student was able to experience the event, regardless of their financial means. The Carnegie performance included full, professional works by Brahms, Faure, and Malcolm Arnold.

The Youth Orchestra rehearses weekly beginning in September in preparation for three standalone performances, as well as a side-by-side performance with the Owensboro Symphony at their holiday concert. 

“The Youth Orchestra and String Orchestra programs are a very important part of our music education programming,” said Owensboro Symphony CEO Gwyn Payne. “Tom is definitely leaving the group very strong and well prepared to continue what he has started.” 

The Owensboro Symphony, through its sponsorship of the Youth and String Orchestra programs, gives specialized training to more than 100 young musicians each year, some of whom go on to join leading American symphony orchestras.

Dozens of Owensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra graduates have continued their education with collegiate scholarships in music performance and music education. Many more have continued performing as they pursue other paths in their lives. A number of Owensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra members have been successful with All-State ensembles, Governor’s School of the Arts, and as featured soloists with the Youth Orchestra as well as in their school ensembles. 

The Owensboro Symphony is actively searching to fill the position of Conductor for the Youth Orchestra, for more information visit

August 29, 2022 | 12:07 am

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