In 1961, at California Lutheran University, Dr. Robert Zimmerman, Professor Betty Bowen, Walter Burkedahl saw the need for an ensemble for the students at the university. Professor Bowen became the founder and conductor of this new ensemble which began as a Saturday conservatory, and held their first rehearsals in an old farm house, rumored to be a converted chicken coop, on the college campus.
After 14 years of dedication to the ensemble, the sponsorship of the orchestra then became to responsibility of the Conejo Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Elmer Ramsey. Mr. Ramsey engaged Nancy Segerhammer, violinist in the Conejo Symphony as the conductor of the youth symphony. After Ms. Segerhammer, Kevin O’Donnell, the orchestra director at Agoura High School became the conductor. The orchestra was then passed on to Mr. Jack Marzano, principal violist in the Conejo Symphony who continued the orchestra’s development.
In 1983, the orchestra was turned over to Ms. Carol Alexander, a band/orchestra teacher in the Conejo Schools who was also a French Horn player in the Conejo Symphony. After the orchestra was taken under the wings of the new Conejo Valley Symphony Orchestra, the board of directors agreed on the new name, The Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra.
Bill Benson joined the staff in 1994 as coach and to developed a younger string feeder program. In June of 1999, Ms. Alexander retired and moved to Washington and Mr. Benson became the new conductor as well as the artistic director. Maestro Benson expanded the program by adding a third orchestra and appointed Ms. Karen Sanchez as Youth Strings Director.
In 2021 Mr. Benson appointed Alexander Tseitlin as Artistic Director, and took on the new title of Director Emeritus. Alexander’s wife Rebecca Tseitilin joined the staff as Associate Conductor.