This April, the Bakersfield Youth Symphony Orchestra will be taking its talented musicians to Wakayama, Japan, one of Bakersfield’s sister cities.

Every four to five years, the Bakersfield Youth Symphony Orchestra embarks on a tour outside the county to share the accomplished group’s harmonies and represent Bakersfield. This April, the group will be taking its talented musicians to Wakayama, Japan, one of Bakersfield’s sister cities.

Bakersfield’s relationship with Wakayama, Japan, spans over 50 years. Sister cities allows for cities to interconnect and benefit from a mutual relationship.

“Four years ago, we went to England … it was pretty amazing. We went to tons of cities. Four or five years before that we went to our sister city in Bucheon, South Korea,” said Regina Pryor.

Pryor is the president of Bakersfield Youth Symphony Orchestra and first vice president of Bakersfield Sister City Project Corporation. Her relationship with Bakersfield’s sister cities allowed for the participation of BYSO in its program.

BYSO consists of members from ages 13 through 20. Each September, blind auditions are held for interested students and every year current members need to reaudition.

“The youth symphony has been around at least 25 to 30 years. It was started by a bunch of private music teachers that were in Kern County,” said Pryor.

However, trips like Japan only happen every four years or so. During a regular year, BYSO consists of three concerts – all in winter and spring. BYSO will be in Wakayama from April 12 through the 20. This year’s trip will consist of 75 members and 20 adult chaperons that vary from parents, board members and teachers. All members will be participating in homestay with a host family in Wakayama.

“When we get there they’re going to be home staying with a family for two nights and then they have a brand-new youth center in Wakayama, Japan. The youth center is going to be where the kids are going to be staying with some of our chaperons. Then the adults are staying in a hotel. When we are in Wakayama, we’re going to some schools. Tuesday is the day of touring. Wednesday, the whole day is focused on the concert,” said Pryor.

Some of the highlights of the trip consist of the tours, meeting the mayor and performing with Wakayama’s very own choir group.

The music they will be preforming range from American music to more fitting music for their Wakayama friends.

“We’re doing lots of American music, (like) John Williams. We want to do an anime song, we want to do one of their folk songs. We’re hoping to have that with their choir,” said Pryor.

However, the cost of this trip is $2,800 per member. There have been numerous fundraising efforts put into raising the money for the trip.

“We had a committee of parents that were on a fundraising committee and they had sponsorship letters they can do. We did a Marie Callender’s pie fundraiser … we are in the process right now with Tahoe Joe’s. We’ve received some donations. We are still looking for more, all the way to the end,” said Pryor.

To donate to BYSO, go to

BYSO will conduct a send-off concert at Highland High School on April 7 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. 

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