Inspired by the El Sistema model of music education, SMYO strives to promote socioeconomic diversity through tuition-free music programming. The organization was founded in 2012 by a small group of volunteers and initially held “orchestral” rehearsals (there were just 14 musicians!) at the Santa Monica Camera Obscura. With the support of the City of Santa Monica, it soon grew to comprise an orchestra, a choir, and a chamber music ensemble serving as many as 150 young people.

After four years under the fiscal and administrative umbrella of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Monica, SMYO is now an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Funding for SMYO comes from organizations and foundations including the Herb Alpert Foundation, the Weingart Foundation, and the Water Buffalo Club and through the financial and in-kind support of individuals.