LOS ANGELES - For nearly 60 years, young musicians have gotten help in starting their careers from the Young Musicians Foundation.  The California-based foundation's orchestra is a bridge between the worlds of amateur and professional music.

There are high school students in the group as young as 15, and young professionals up to age 25, and conductor Roger Kalia says they all bring passion to their music.

“There is a certain amount of energy and excitement, which is just contagious, and I love seeing that," said Kalia.

The musicians prepared for a recent performance at a local middle school that included selections from Georges Bizet's opera Carmen. 70 young musicians get to work with the best in the field.  

Flutist Mira Magrill recently performed a solo as the orchestra played a selection from John Williams' score for the film War Horse.

“And it starts and ends with a huge flute cadenza, which I got to perform, with John Williams conducting.  It was probably the best performance I have ever been a part of," said Magrill.

Rehearsals help the orchestra master difficult compositions.  And as part of the foundation's outreach, members mentor kids in local schools and perform in small chamber music ensembles. The foundation also sponsors competitions and scholarships.

Young conductors who led the orchestra early in their career include Michael Tilson Thomas and Andre Previn, according to Kalia, 28,  the current music director who is a doctoral student at Indiana University.

“This is also for me a training position, and I am learning so much working with these younger musicians," he said.

This orchestra helps young musicians make the transition from the school or conservatory to the concert hall, says Julia Gaskill, the foundation's executive director.

“They build confidence.  And their love of music and their natural talent is nurtured," said Gaskill.

She says the orchestra is the bridge to a career and a lifelong love of music.