This is MYSO's 56th year of offering the highest level of training in ensemble musicianship to motivated young people from diverse backgrounds across southeastern Wisconsin.
Students with varied levels of instrumental skills benefit from the broad range of MYSO experiences, all created to foster talent, build character and enhance lives by nurturing an enduring love of music.
MYSO’s offerings feature:
Senior Symphony—MYSO’s flagship ensemble--a full symphony orchestra made up of very advanced players, generally in the upper grades of high school. It has long been recognized as one of the nation’s top youth music ensembles, hailed for artistic excellence both nationally and internationally. In July of 2009, MYSO sent 70+ members of Senior Symphony, along with MYSO's Bronzeville Jazz Quintet, to the Pacific Northwest (Vancouver, Victoria, Whistler, Seattle) for a 7-day concert tour.
Chamber Orchestra—A subset of the Senior Symphony, this is a very advanced group was organized to give students an opportunity to play standard chamber orchestra repertoire—works not generally played by the symphony orchestras.
Philharmonia—This full symphony orchestra provides musicians with experience in preparing a great variety of shorter works from the romantic to post-modern periods; comprised generally of younger high school musicians, the members of this group often "graduate" into Senior Symphony.
Sinfonia/Junior Symphony Orchestra—A large, intermediate-level string orchestra whose members are generally in middle school and early high school. In the spring, selected wind players from the Junior Wind Ensemble augment this group to form the Junior Symphony Orchestra, playing full orchestra literature.
Junior Wind Ensemble—An intermediate-level wind ensemble comprised of woodwind, brass and percussion players in grades 6-9. This ensemble was created to provide young wind, brass and percussion players more playing time and a broad range of repertoire.
String Orchestra—A string training program which meets in four smaller groups at regional sites around the area (Central, North, South, and West). About one-third of the rehearsals take place at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, where the groups rehearse as two large orchestras; concerts are also performed as two large orchestras.
Chamber Flute Ensemble—An advanced multi-part flute choir that works on cutting edge, advanced flute choir repertoire and more sophisticated arrangements of orchestral repertoire.
Flute Chorale—A multi-part flute choir that plays standard flute choir repertoire and arrangements of orchestral repertoire. Members are generally in middle school or early high school.
MYSO Jazz Studies, consisting of classes and small combo opportunities for middle and high school students, with a special focus on City of Milwaukee students. In July of 2009, MYSO's top combo, Bronzeville Jazz Quintet, traveled with Senior Symphony to the Pacific Northwest for a 7-day concert tour.
MYSO Progressions, an introductory string training program directed toward City of Milwaukee populations which have previously been under-represented in MYSO
MYSO Calypso, MYSO's Trinidadian-style steel band, originally formed in partnership with the Milwaukee Public Schools
MYSO’s extensive schedule of rehearsals, performances, outreach initiatives and enrichment opportunities also includes a large chamber music program, theory and composition classes, free masterclasses, workshops, competitions and much more.
In 1956, a number of visionary leaders within the Junior League, Rotary of Milwaukee and the War Memorial wisely determined that Milwaukee needed to develop arts opportunities for the community’s young people. With support from all three institutions, the Children’s Arts Program was created—and along with it the Capsters, a fledgling orchestra of 30 eager young musicians. From that erstwhile group, Music For Youth (MFY) was eventually born, incorporating in 1960; MFY became a charter member of Milwaukee’s United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) in 1969, later moving into the brand new Performing Arts Center (now the Marcus Center) as an anchor tenant, changing its name to Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO) in 1988, to better describe the organization’s activities and locale.
Along the way, MFY/MYSO grew, achieving a membership of about 400 in 1988. It continued to grow throughout the 90’s, adding rehearsals in a variety of area schools to better accommodate the increasing numbers of talented young musicians. In the mid-90’s it became clear that in order to take the next steps artistically and programmatically, MYSO would need to find new spaces----venues that could accommodate larger ensembles, provide educationally and acoustically appropriate rehearsal space, and allow for program growth in new, much needed directions. The search for a building began, and by the late 90’s MYSO and First Stage Children’s Theater found each other.
In 2005, MYSO moved into the acclaimed Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, a collaborative initiative of MYSO and First Stage Children’s Theater. Home to dance and vocal music training programs, as well, this 56,000 sq. ft. state of the art facility in Milwaukee’s historic Schlitz Park is quickly becoming a national model for arts education, with a mission of using the arts to enhance all children’s lives. Several innovative MYSO offerings, prompted and made possible by the move, have received notable awards and recognition—locally, regionally and nationally, particularly for MYSO’s ambitious efforts in outreach and community partnerships.
MYSO, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2006, has grown from a single orchestra of thirty to become, by several measures, the largest and most extensive youth orchestra program in the country. Serving nearly 850 talented young musicians from as many as fourteen counties in Southeastern Wisconsin. MYSO’s extensive schedule of rehearsals, performances, outreach initiatives and enrichment opportunities also includes a large chamber music program, theory and composition classes, free masterclasses, workshops, competitions and much more.
MYSO has partnered with many other organizations to better serve both students and community. Examples of these collaborations, in addition to First Stage, include a talent development partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs, side-by-side reading workshops with the Milwaukee Symphony, an annual concert with the Milwaukee Children’s Choir, Jazz Collab, a joint venture with the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, a “new music” exploration initiative with Present Music, numerous ongoing programs in cooperation with Milwaukee Public Schools and a very successful, recent partnership with the United Community Center/Bruce Guadalupe School.
While participation in most MYSO ensembles is tuition-based, the organization has a long-standing commitment to making its programs available to all qualified musicians; scholarship assistance is available upon application, and no student need be denied an opportunity to participate because of financial need.
In 2008, MYSO proudly received the Governor’s Award in Support of the Arts, largely in recognition of our extensive and successful diversity initiatives. In 2007, MYSO was awarded UPAF’s Northwestern Mutual Management Excellence Award for having attained the highest management score of UPAF’s numerous groups. It has won the UPAF award for outstanding financial management for the past three years, having doubled its budget over the past five years and run a successful capital campaign and international tour without creating a deficit.
MYSO’s talented music faculty members blend creativity and pedagogical expertise with their great breadth of musical knowledge. They come from all corners of the musical world and include UWM faculty, Milwaukee Symphony players, seasoned and recognized school educators and other noted area musicians. MYSO’s experienced, capable administrative staff has been remarkably stable while at the same time doubling the organization’s enrollment over the past fifteen years and successfully completing the fundraising for—and building of—a major new community facility. The entire MYSO family is united by its dedication not just to training future performers and music educators, but most importantly to using the arts to enhance all children’s lives, developing in many thousands of adults a much deeper appreciation of the arts in general—and fine music in particular.