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Symphonic Training
Community Engagement

Inspiring a culture of musical excellence

Unique opportunity for the most serious and talented young musicians in the Big Country

The Abilene Youth Philharmonic Orchestra was created in 1988 by Celeste Myall. It performed for 18 years until it was discontinued in 2006 for financial reasons. After a 13 year hiatus, the orchestra was revived as the Abilene Youth Orchestra after the Abilene Philharmonic Association received a generous pledge from an anonymous donor.

The Abilene Youth Orchestra (AYO) is a full symphony orchestra that offers a unique opportunity for the most serious and talented young musicians in the Big Country to perform advanced repertoire that will challenge and inspire.

The primary purpose of the AYO is to provide its members with exemplary symphonic training and performance opportunities and to inspire a culture of musical excellence.


He brings to the orchestra a wealth of experience

The Abilene Youth Orchestra exists for the benefit of young musicians, responds to their needs, and keeps their interest in musical education paramount to all other considerations. The organization does not discriminate on the basis or race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status.

He brings to the orchestra a wealth of experience

Dr. Steven Ward serves as the Music Director/Conductor of the Civic Orchestra of Abilene. He is also a Professor of Music at Abilene Christian University, where he is the Director of Bands, conductor of the Wind Ensemble, coordinator of the chamber music program, and teaches courses in conducting. Previous to his appointment at ACU, he was Director of Bands at Hope College in Holland, MI, and the Music Director/Conductor of the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra in Kalamazoo, MI.

Dr. Ward holds a D.M.A. in Conducting from Michigan State University, a M.A. in Conducting from Stephen F. Austin State University, and a B.M. in Music Education from Abilene Christian University. Prior to his appointment at Hope College, Dr. Ward was the Music Director/Conductor of the Grande Ronde Symphony Orchestra in La Grande, OR, and was Instructor of Music at Eastern Oregon University.

Susie Rockett is the Orchestra Personnel & Education Manager for the Abilene Philharmonic. She plays second oboe/English horn – Janeen Holmes Gilliam Chair with the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra and is oboe faculty at Abilene Christian University, Hardin- Simmons University, and McMurry University. 

She plays frequently with the Abilene Philharmonic, and performs on the Leland Musical Arts Celebration Concert Series in Leland, MI. She is the Concert Series Coordinator at the Church of the Heavenly Rest in Abilene, TX which brings stellar musicians from around the world to the Big Country. 

Molly Amlung is a 2009 graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she received her undergraduate degrees in Music Performance and Music History & Literature. An Ohio native, Mrs. Amlung has both taught and performed extensively throughout much of the U.S. and abroad on instruments ranging from trombone, euphonium, piano, and cello. Notable performance groups include The Milwaukee Philharmonic, The Ohio Light Opera, The Columbus Indiana Symphony, The Brass Band of Nashville, and Bone Therapy. Molly is currently a member of Strings Unlimited in Abilene, TX, a quartet specializing in weddings and private events. She has enjoyed performing for area musicals, concerts, and church orchestras since moving to Abilene and has been a supplemental music instructor for AISD since 2015. Mrs. Amlung is also a 2018 ACU graduate where she obtained a Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy. She is a licensed occupational therapist contracted through the West Texas Rehabilitation Center for the Abilene Independent School System.

Susie Rockett Bio ... Continued

Ms. Rockett received her degrees in Music Education and Performance from Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX and a Master’s in Oboe Performance with distinction from the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA where she studied with Wayne Rapier. Ms. Rockett has also studied English horn with David Matthews and Steven Lickman.

She is a frequent recitalist, clinician, and maintains an active teaching schedule, but most of all loves performing chamber music with her incredibly gifted colleagues – Key City Winds. Ms. Rockett lives in Abilene, TX with her husband and two daughters who love the oboe!

McKenzie Rangel Bio ... Continued

Mrs. Rangel attended Abilene Christian University where she earned her Bachelors in Music Education. While in college she played violin in the orchestra, musicals, quartets, and operas. She was the orchestra librarian her sophomore year and was awarded the best instrumental jury award her sophomore year as well.

Throughout her years in college, she was the orchestra assistant at Craig Middle School until her student teaching semester where she taught at Madison Middle School and Abilene High School alongside Candace Ice, Darcy Radcliffe, and Fred Grigg. After graduating, Mrs. Rangel became the orchestra assistant at Craig and Madison Middle Schools as well as taught private lessons at Madison Middle School and Abilene High School.

After one semester of assisting and teaching private lessons, Mrs. Rangel accepted a teaching position as the orchestra director at A&M Consolidated Middle School in College Station, Texas. While in this position, the orchestras under Mrs. Rangel earned several division one ranking at UIL as well as numerous students being accepted into All-Region Orchestra. After two years in College Station, Mrs. Rangel returned to Abilene this past school year to teach at Clack Middle School where her orchestra received sweepstakes at UIL.