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We are the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (ICYOLA), the largest majority Black orchestra in the country. 

Founded in 2009, ICYOLA is a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that transforms the lives and minds of young people in Inner City Los Angeles through high quality music education. We teaches inner-city youth the great music of the world and provide opportunities for them to perform that music in the most magnificent settings of our community. We prepare our members for advanced study and high caliber success in music and otherwise. We instill the ancillary benefits that music instruction provides: problem-solving skills, critical thinking, self-reliance, self-confidence, self-discipline, and the crystallization and pursuit of meaningful purpose.

ICYOLA is a proud member of the League of American Orchestras, and is a national leader in efforts to assure diversity in the arts.

ICYOLA is also the official orchestra of California State University, Dominguez Hills.

To cultivate musical expression as a vehicle for personal development, and to bring to fruition the full musical and academic potential of young inner city residents of Los Angeles.


  • ICYOLA offers four programs:
  • the ICYOLA Orchestra Program;
  • the ICYOLA Academy;
  • the Los Angeles Orchestra Fellowship; and
  • The South Los Angeles Music Project.

In addition, we are the founding sponsoring organization that operates both the South Side Chicago Youth Orchestra (www.sscyo.org) and the Youth Orchestra of Tsakane, South Africa.

Through the ICYOLA Orchestra Program, we present an annual Concert Season of 8-10 concerts that features both the standard orchestral repertoire and contemporary music that resounds within the community from which ICYOLA emanates and that it serves.  That Concert Season concludes each year with a Season Finale at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  The ICYOLA boasts approximately 125 members aged 10 and above.

Through our ICYOLA Academy, we offer an intense after-school and summer break program to students of Los Angeles Unified School District and community charter schools where we teach youngsters how to play an instrument and the fundamentals of music theory, and provide a rigorous literacy enhancement program through which we increase our student’s reading, comprehension, listening and speaking skills.

The Los Angeles Orchestra Fellowship is the West Coast’s first comprehensive orchestral fellowship program to prepare top-tier emerging professionals from historically underrepresented communities to take and win auditions with American Orchestras.  In 2016, the League of American Orchestras issued a report indicating that while African-Americans and Latinos each make up approximately 13% of the American population, persons from those communities represent only 1.8% and 2.5% of the American orchestra workforce respectively.  The report also indicated that persons from these communities do not perform well in auditions with American Orchestras, and that this factor contributed to the dearth of persons from these communities in American orchestras.  Thus, our Fellowship Program is specifically designed to improve the performance of persons from those communities in American orchestra auditions, and to thereby increase the number of persons from these communities in American orchestras.  Two members of our first cohort of four have won auditions with American Orchestras as regular substitutes, and one has won an audition as a regular member of an American orchestra.  We operate this three-year in-residence program in collaboration with Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, and through generous funding provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The South Los Angeles Music Project – known as “SLAM” – is a program that offers basic music appreciation and understanding to young persons living in the South Los Angeles quadrant encompassed by the 10, 710 and 405 Freeways.  Participants in this program are offered beginning music instruction both on instruments and through voice.  This program is funded through a generous grant from the County of Los Angeles Probation Department.

The South Side Chicago Youth Orchestra first formed during the summer of 2019 on the campus of Chicago State University.  It emerged from a collaboration with Kenwood Academy, After School Matters and other partners in Chicago.  It presented its first concert at the South Shore Cultural Center during August, 2019, and continues in development.

The Youth Orchestra of Tsakane, South Africa first formed in April, 2019 on the campus of the African School for Excellence in Tsakane.  It eagerly awaits its debut concert.

To teach youngsters in Los Angeles the great music of the world, provide opportunities for them to perform that music in some of the greatest settings of the world, and prepare them for opportunities to play in major American orchestras.

To learn and perform the great orchestral literature of the world, and equip minority youth, especially African-American and Latino youth, with the tools needed to join major American orchestras; and to present those young people to those orchestras as candidates for employment.

Accomplishment • Pride • Camaraderie • Confidence • Respect


Charles (Chuck) Dickerson is the founder, Executive Director and Conductor of the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles. He is also the founder, Executive Director and Conductor of both the South Side Chicago Youth Orchestra, and the Youth Orchestra of Tsakane, South Africa.  He also serves as Director Special Ensembles at California State University, Dominguez Hills, as Director of Music at Rolling Hills United Methodist Church, and as the Choir Director at Leo Baeck Temple in Bel Air, California.  He serves on the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras.  He was recognized in December 2019 as a Professional of the Year by Musical America.

Over his 45 plus years of conducting, he has directed performances of many of the greatest orchestral and choral works throughout the United States, Africa, Asia and Europe.  He has prepared choruses for concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestras including the Phil’s 2012 performance of the Mahler Eighth Symphony and performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Maestro Gustavo Dudamel conducting.

Chuck is also holds important compositional credits. His best-known work is “I Have A Dream,” a choral and orchestral setting of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s landmark speech. The work was performed for the unveiling ceremonies of the King Memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC, and at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles for Los Angeles County’s official celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the speech. He has also arranged and conducted orchestral performances of the music of Duke Ellington, Stevie Wonder, Motown and others.  He currently holds a commission from the State of California to compose a piece of music memorializing African-American slavery, Native-American genocide, Japanese-American internment, and the disparagement of Latino-American populations.

He holds a Master of Music Degree with a focus on conducting from California State University, Los Angeles, and degrees from Howard University (B.S.) and American University (J.D.).  He has studied with esteemed Conductors Gustav Meier, Daniel Lewis, and Kenneth Kiesler.

He formerly served as Music Director and Conductor of the Southeast Symphony (2004-2011) and as Director of Music at Holman United Methodist Church.  He has held important public and civic leadership positions in Washington DC and Los Angeles.

Chuck is married, has two adult children, is a proud grandfather, and is an avid baseball fan.

ICYOLA Board of Directors

J. Stanley Sanders, Esq., Chair

Attorney at Law

Sandra Wheeler, Secretary

Music Teacher (Retired), Los Angeles Unified School District

Earl Wooten, Treasurer

VP Private/Business Loan Underwriter, Wells Fargo Bank

Sandra Goldsmith Bennett

President, National Medical Association Auxiliary, Los Angeles

Hansonia Caldwell, Ph.D.

Professor of Music Emeritus, California State University Dominguez Hills

Charles Dickerson III

ICYOLA Founder, Executive Director and Conductor

Ron Hartwig

VP of Communications (Retired), The Getty Foundation

Anne-Marie Johnson


Antoinette Laudermilk

Executive Director (Retired), Lifelong Learners

James Montgomery

Senior Counsel

Gibbs Giden Locher Turner Senet & Wittbrodt

Wilma Pinder

Attorney at Law (Retired), Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office

Jonathan Weedman

Executive Director, Gay Men’s Chorus Los Angeles

Marcus Wilson-Smith

Senior Producer, KTLA 5 News, Los Angeles


It is uncommon to see a youth orchestra in such a short time assume a leading role in the celebratory function of its host community the way the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (ICYOLA) has done over the past eleven years.

Its play at various social, religious and political functions in the greater Los Angeles area, and in the nation’s capitol, has been a welcome addition to the music and cultural landscape of the region. The Orchestra has provided music for cotillions and debutante balls; it has been the featured musical entertainment at community banquets and dinners, including the Annual Urban League Gala, among others; it has been the orchestral accompaniment for inaugural political events for a host of U. S., California State, and Los Angeles County and City representatives. The Orchestra was the only large classical music ensemble invited to help dedicate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Orchestra has played on more than one occasion for First Lady Michelle Obama.

The tireless work of the Orchestra’s Executive Director and Conductor, Charles E. Dickerson III, has added to this impressive list of public performances celebrating the community which supports the Orchestra. Dickerson has composed two major symphonic works, one of which, the “I Have a Dream” symphony, has been performed by the Orchestra both in Washington, D.C., and in Los Angeles on several occasions, including, here in the Walt Disney Concert Hall, on the 50th anniversary of that most famous oration of 20th Century America. The second major symphony composition by Dickerson, Symphony No. 1, known as “The Mandela Symphony,” celebrates the extraordinary and sacrifcial life of South African President and Freedom Fighter Nelson Mandela. Like the “I Have a Dream” Symphony, “The Mandela Symphony” will have its world premiere performed by the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles.

ICYOLA acknowledges its debt to the community and to the lives in it. In the coming years of great performances and local appearances, the Orchestra will continue to draw inspiration for its own effort from these lives.

J. Stanley Sanders, Esq.