Youth of America was an outgrowth of the San Leandro Unified School District’s summer Fine Arts Workshop program, dating back to 1950. The six-week annual program started with 125 students and 2 teachers and had an ensemble called Showtime USA, later becoming Young America. Showtime USA had dancers, a band, and a chorus comprising participants in the SLUSD Fine Arts Workshop.
From 1958 to 1960, the group played for the Cazadero Music Camp in the Russian River area. Lyle Bardo was the ensemble director as early as 1960. Showtime USA 1961 and Showtime USA 1962 appeared on KTVU (with Ian Zellick, director of art and production). The group is also believed to have performed at the inauguration of Mayor Alioto and to have received a proclamation signed by the mayor. In 1962, there was an event including noted conductor Arthur Fiedler.
At the time, Lyle Bardo was also performing with the Fanchon and Marco company, where he met Miss Pat Mason. The Dance Masters of America had some connection to early Young America history. Lawrence Kahn, son of Miss Pat Mason and Stanley Kahn, suggested that students who had attended established dance schools in San Leandro may have also contributed to the recruitment of his parents to help the group. Claude Figeroid recalled that the Kahns formally joined the organization in 1964, with the first appearance being at the Berkeley Community Theatre.
The group debuted a new name in a 1964 television performance with Shirley Temple called “Young America on Stage.” Temple and the YA cast won a John Swett Television Award for the telecast.
In 1966, the group filed formal articles of incorporation and was no longer sponsored by the school district. The San Francisco Bay Area–based Youth of America (YA) was the only combined show orchestra, chorus, and dance corps in the United States. At its peak, the cast comprised more than 115 junior high, high school, and college students, most residing in Southern Alameda County. In its earliest years, the core leadership team consisted of Bryant Figeroid, Lyle Bardo, Stanley Kahn, Miss Pat Mason, and Derrell Bond.
As a result of a lawsuit over the name, the organization was renamed Youth of America. In 1967, YA filmed with Pat Boone, and later that year, the cast of 115 students headed to Expo ’67, with stops in New York and Washington, DC. After the resignations of Bryant Figeroid and Derrell Bond, Lyle Bardo served as director of the orchestra and chorus and as musical arranger. Stanley Kahn assumed the organization presidency and, with Miss Pat Mason, directed the dance corps. Lyle Bardo fell ill in 1977 and died in January 1978.
Leadership fell solely in the hands of Stanley Kahn and Pat Mason. The music director role changed hands frequently and included Eugene Graves, Elaine Elam, and others. Although Pepsi-Cola of San Francisco and the Shaklee Corporation provided some sponsorship of the group, it was disbanded in early 1982, having fewer than 50 student performers at the time.