American Youth Symphony (AYS), founded in 1982, has a long history of fulfilling its mission of promoting instrumental music in popular culture to counteract the overwhelming use of computerized, electronic sounds in popular music. Our projects embark on creative non-traditional ways to reach out to communities. An example of these projects include Americas Hot Musician, an American Idol-like television competition for instrumental musicians, which ran nationally on Lifetime Real Women; To Rap or Play, a documentary funded by DC Commission of the Arts, which challenges students to ponder the absence of instrumental "stars" in popular culture; and a Canadian sound recording with a Canadian Idol finalist that provided young instrumental musicians experience in the recording studio. The recording entitled The Dreamer featuring Sarah Loverock was certified gold by the Canadian Recording Industry Association.
In September 2011, AYS produced the jazz play It's a Hardbop Life (Japan)- which orginally debuted at the 2004 New York JVC Jazz Festival; this play tells the story of jazz in the 1960s though the eyes of a Japanese national. The production appeared at the Ida K. Lang Theatre in New York and provided opportunities for Japanese diversity in American theater as well as furthering AYS's mission to promote instrumental musicians in creative ways—in this production, as actors.
AYS also produced a music humanities program called The Japanese Jazz Affect: A Discussion About the Historical Relationship of Jazz and the Japanese People which has featured jazz legend Toshiko Akyoshi and the work of E. Taylor Atkins, author of the highly acclaimed book Blue Nippon:Authenticating Jazz in Japan. The program has appeared at major universities in the United States including the University of Pittsburgh, Ohio State University and Hunter College.
Currently, AYS is producing Off Broadway, a gospel stage play entitled God Doesn't Mean You Get To Live Forever, also furthering AYS's mission by promoting instrumental musicians as actors. The production appears weekly on Sundays and also provides New York Senior Citizens with affordable entertainment and a dinner meal for a total of $7.
Renown jazz trombonist, Gregory Charles Royal founded AYS and now serves as its artistic director. Royal has extensive experience traveling in Asia as part of the first jazz band to perform in China and throughout Japan as a soloist with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Royal also appeared in the Broadway hit Five Guys Named Moe and is chronicled in the book Art Blakey Jazz Messenger by Leslie Gourse.