Joseph Levine, Music Director of the Omaha Symphony, began his tenure as conductor of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony. Seventy students rehearsed at the Jewish Community Center. By May, the Youth Symphony held its first concert in the Joslyn Art Museum Concert Hall.
In 1961, the Metropolitan Area Youth Orchestra, an organization governed by a board of school representatives and members of the Omaha Symphony Guild, added a second ensemble, the Junior Orchestra.
The Metropolitan Area Youth Orchestra adopted a new name, the Omaha Area Youth Orchestras. The organization began to expand under the direction of Music Director David Hagy and new orchestra programs were added, as well as two additional annual concerts.
OAYO added a third orchestra, the Youth Chamber Strings (now the Youth Concert Strings). OAYO performed a world premiere of a cello concerto, Romanza by D. Martin Jenni, and performed at the Midwest International Band/Orchestra Clinic in Chicago. In 1989, OAYO became one of the first youth orchestra programs to establish a private lesson scholarship fund for talented youth musicians with financial need.
OAYO introduced a chamber music program and added two additional introductory orchestras, the Elementary Strings (now Prelude Strings) and Honors Orchestra. OAYO performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and toured France and Austria. OAYO celebrated its 40th anniversary with Grammy winner, Richard Stoltzman. In 1999, Aviva Segall began her tenure with OAYO.
In 2001, OAYO established the Youth Conservatory Orchestra and the Youth Symphony performed its first side-by-side with the Omaha Symphony. In 2002, the OAYO Youth Symphony performed in the National Youth Orchestra Festival. In 2005, OAYO performed in the Holland Performing Arts Center.
OAYO celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008. The All-Orchestra concert featured a 50th Anniversary Gala with families, alumni and community members in attendance. The winter concert featured the Youth Symphony and the OAYO Alumni Orchestra, including Glen Hadsell, the very first conductor of the OAYO Symphony. The March concert featured several commissioned pieces.
OAYO serves 550 musicians from more than 120 schools across 22 Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa districts. In 2015, the New Music Ensemble was added to provide musicians with the opportunity to perform contemporary pieces.