Born in St. Louis, Leon Burke III attended the Oberlin Conservatory and received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Kansas. He studied with Sir Georg Solti, Leonard Slatkin, Edo de Waart, and Jorge Mester. Dr. Burke has served as Conductor/Music Director of the Lawrence Chamber Players, the Hutchinson Symphony, and the McPherson Symphony. He has also been on the faculties of Baker University, Sterling College, Hutchinson Community College, and Webster University.

 Dr. Burke is currently the Music Director of the Belleville Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, the Choir Director for Eliot Chapel in Kirkwood, the Music Director of the University City Symphony, Assistant Director of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, and is one of the cover conductors for the St. Louis Symphony. Additionally, he is on the faculties of St. Louis University and East Central College in Union, Missouri teaching voice. Outside of St. Louis, he is the Principal Guest Conductor of the Asunción Symphony in Paraguay and the Resident Conductor of the Metropolitan Ballet of Topeka. A multifaceted musician, Dr. Burke has directed choruses and conducted orchestras in the US and abroad and makes guest appearances as bass soloist. He is one of the conductors on the roster of the prestigious arts management firm, Price Rubin & Partners.

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Dr. Leon Burke III

Becoming a member


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Musicians who have at least two years of instrumental experience are welcome to audition at any time during the year. All instruments are needed, especially strings, but every section needs more people to make a full orchestra. The Youth Orchestra performs three concerts throughout the year.  Registration is $75 (additional family members are $60 each). There is a prorated fee of $50.00 for musicians joining after the December concert. Checks are payable to the Belleville Philharmonic Society. For more information on joining the Youth Orchestra, contact Julie Herr at or call (618) 222-9218.    

Audition Guidelines:

  1. All musicians will play a short excerpt highlighting technique and musicality. Music is to be provided by the musician. Selection need not be memorized.
  2. If possible, non-percussionists should be able to play 2-octave major scales up to and including four sharps and four flats.
  3. Percussionists will play a piece from their repertoire on as many instruments as possible.
  4. All seating will be at the discretion of the conductor, Dr. Leon Burke.
  5. Stringed instrument musicians may be placed in the youth orchestra or the Level 2 Beginning Strings program at the discretion of the conductor.

The Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Leon Burke III, is a dynamic ensemble providing orchestral experience for young musicians from across the Metro-East area. Special events include the George N. Tuerck Memorial Concert featuring competition winners and the annual Inter-Generational Orchestra program held each summer.  The Philharmonic Youth Orchestra was founded in 1962, under the direction of George Tuerck.

The purpose of the Belleville Philharmonic Youth Orchestra is to:

  • Provide quality music and performance opportunities for young musicians throughout the Metro-East area. 
  • Offer young people the ability to expand their musical competence by performing in a full orchestral setting. 
  • Inspire students with a love of music.  
  • Encourage and challenge their talent to promote a desire to go beyond what is comfortable and achieve what is possible.
  • Make available an extracurricular music program that complements local school band and music programs. While the Belleville Philharmonic Youth Orchestra expects regular attendance at rehearsals and concerts, we recognize that school music programs take priority! 


Find out more information about this preparatory string program here.