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What people say about YPCO

"Our son played violin for a couple of years when his violin teacher suggested he try YPCO.  He went to try it out in the summer, and then quickly joined once the fall semester started.  Rem is so warm and supportive and has built such a positive community of young musicians with a range of experience and ability. 


In four years of playing in YPCO, my son never said he didn't want to go.  On the contrary, he was excited every Saturday morning and came home energized by the music they were playing.  He has really grown as a player under Rem and Ben, and even had the opportunity to play a few concertos.  We couldn't be more grateful for the experience he has had in YPCO!"

Young People's Chamber Orchestra (YPCO) was founded in 1982 by beloved music teacher Ellen Mindell.  The YPCO philosophy is to provide a musical learning experience for young string musicians in the community - which has grown to include participants from all over the bay - Berkeley, Albany, Kensington, Oakland, Alameda, Lafayette, Richmond, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Marin, Santa Clara and San Francisco. 

Rem Djemilev has been the Music Director and Conductor for YPCO since 1998, and under Rem’s gifted leadership, the orchestra has further solidified its reputation as a nurturing environment where young musicians can build their ensemble playing skills.


As a teaching string orchestra, YPCO promotes a non-competitive and cooperative philosophy, welcoming the skills and talents of all our members with equal warmth. 


Through the transition from individual lessons and practice to ensemble playing, students develop their abilities to cooperate, focus, communicate and work towards a common goal.  What differentiates YPCO is students develop a love of music, practice with zeal, and are motivated to develop new skills including technique, rhythm, intonation, dynamic control, interpretation and expression.  


There are several different levels of skill and experience within the string chamber orchestra, and each section includes a coach. 


Coaches provide support, whether it is tuning, training on a specific technique, providing help to interpret a difficult segment of a piece, or providing motivation. 


This provides many more opportunities to learn for each of the students in the orchestra, peer leadership opportunities for our more experienced members, and a greater overall experience for learning and loving music. 


Our Conductors


Music Director and Conductor

Rem Djemilev

We are particularly lucky to have as our music director and conductor Rem Djemilev, who is well known in the Bay Area for his superior musicianship and wonderful, positive work with young musicians.

Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in the former USSR, Rem Djemilev began his musical studies at age five and by the age of seven had won first prize in the All-Republican violin competition. Rem went on to study violin at the Moscow Conservatory under the great virtuoso Leonid Kogan and viola under Feodor Druzhinin.

In 1988 he toured the United States as a member of the American-Soviet Youth Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta and Dmitri Kataenko. After graduating from the Moscow Conservatory, Rem moved to the United States. He has toured extensively throughout Europe and the US with the Arlekin String Quartet.

Along with teaching private violin and viola lessons, Rem teaches at the Crowden School in Berkeley and the Marin Academy in San Rafael. He conducts the Young Performers’ String Orchestra and the Diablo Regional Youth Orchestra in Walnut Creek, and plays in many chamber groups and orchestras in the Bay Area.


Assistant Conductor

Ben Spilman

Ben Spilman has been with YPCO since 1983, when he brought his seven-year-old daughter, Leah, to her first rehearsal. He offered to help conductor Ellen Mindel tune the students’ instruments and stayed on to become an enduring and dearly loved mainstay of the organization.


Ben began playing violin when he was seven, studying first under his father and then with other teachers in the Chicago area. His most influential teacher was here in Berkeley: Vincent DiBianca, a former member of the San Francisco Symphony. Ben has played with a number of local orchestras over the years, including the Berkeley Opera and Berkeley and Vallejo symphonies.


Ben started teaching in 1986 at Ecole Bilingue, the French/English school in Berkeley. Since then, in addition to private students, he has coached string ensembles and sectionals at Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Le Conte Schools, Berkeley Hight School, East Bay Suzuki Association group classes, Berkeley Youth Orchestra, Oakland Youth Orchestra, and, of course, YPCO. A man of many talents, Ben also makes fine violins and violas!

When we meet

We meet on Saturday mornings from 10-11:30am. 

Please  Request a Rehearsal Visit or email for additional information.

YPCO violin solo
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