About KJSO

History and Accomplishments

History and Accomplishments

As one of the oldest and most prestigious youth orchestras in the country, the KJSO is dedicated to advancing music education and orchestral performance opportunities to youth in Southwest Michigan.

Some of our most prominent musical alumni have gone on to positions in the Symphony Orchestras of Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, and Liege (Belgium), to name but a few.  Closer to home, KJSO alumni form substantial portions of the Kalamazoo and Battle Creek Symphony Orchestras, the Kalamazoo Philharmonia, and the Kalamazoo Concert Band.

The KJSO was founded in 1939 by Eugene Andrie, its first conductor. Over the decades, the KJSO has been led by several fine conductors:

Eugene Andrie, 1939 – 1941

Julius Stulberg, 1941 – 1974

Herbert Butler, 1974 – 1978

Dr. Robert Ritsema, 1978 – 2001

Steven Ward, 2001 – 2006

Andrew Koehler, 2007 – present

Honors and Awards

Over the years, the KJSO has been accorded many national and international honors.  To list only a few:

  •  Through its international tours, performed on every inhabited continent in the world.
  •  Selected to play for the North Central Divisional meeting of the Music Educators National Conference and the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic.
  •  Received National Federation of Music Clubs Awards for Merit for the Crusades of Strings, and for its recognition of American Composers.
  •  Recommended by the American Symphony Orchestra League as a model for youth orchestras.
  •  Frequently selected as the accompanying orchestra for the Michigan Youth Arts Festival.
  • Invited to play many special engagements, including numerous successful side-by-side performances with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra.
  • In partnership with the Stulberg International String Festival, hosted the bronze medal winners of that competition every year, among the most accomplished young artists in the world.
  • Has welcomed world-famous guest artists as soloists, including Alon Goldstein, Alpin Hong, Rachel Barton Pine, and Midori.


Learn more about KJSO’s Performances and Tours, past and present.