The Winston-Salem Youth Symphony (WSYS) was founded in 1973 by co-conductors Lynn Peters (then Principal Double Bassist of the Winston-Salem Symphony) and Nancy Kredel under the auspices of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. It began as a string orchestra; winds were added the following year. Peggy Wheeler became Assistant Conductor when Nancy Kredel left in 1978. Other assistants included Richard Cook, Minnie Lou Raper, Danny Green and Fred Rierson.
The Winston-Salem Symphony joined the UNCSA in sponsoring the WSYS in 1994 when Robert Franz became the youth orchestra’s second Music Director and the Education Director for the WSS. A string orchestra, the Junior Youth Symphony, was formed in the same year with Latoya Sammons as conductor. Other conductors of the Youth Symphony include Richard Cook (1997-98), Skip Taylor (1998-2001) and Sabrina Howard (2001-2002). David Hagy, the Orchestra Director at Wake Forest University and Music Director of the Salisbury Symphony, was Artistic Director from 2002-2008. In 1999 Margaret Rehder became the conductor of the Junior Youth Symphony later called the Repertory Orchestra. In 2002 the official name of the organization became the Winston-Salem Youth Orchestras with the more experienced orchestra remaining the Youth Symphony and the Repertory Orchestra becoming the Youth Philharmonic. In 2008, after an extensive audition process, Matthew Troy was hired as Music Director of the Youth Symphony after previously serving as Assistant Conductor from 2004-2008.
In 2007 the Youth Orchestras became an official part of the Winston-Salem Symphony Association with added resources of the WSS Music Director Robert Moody and Executive Director Merritt Vale. The Winston-Salem Symphony, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), and Wake Forest University continue to offer invaluable resources and sponsorship of the Winston-Salem Symphony Youth Orchestras program. Parent volunteers contribute many hours to help the orchestras function. UNCSA and Wake Forest University provide rehearsal and performance space as well as the use of percussion and other instruments. The WSSYO are now governed by the Youth Orchestras Council made up of parents, teachers, and other community members who oversee their activities and development.