More Than Music

The MYSO Story.

We Are Milwaukee Youth
Symphony Orchestra

Since 1956, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO) has been nurturing, challenging, and inspiring young minds, profoundly changing lives and our community for the better. MYSO has grown from one orchestra and 30 students to become one of the largest and most respected youth orchestras in the country. We enroll more than 800 of the area’s young musicians who come from 200 schools, 90 zip codes, and as many as 14 counties throughout southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Each year we provide outreach programs to an additional 5,000 youth and reach an audience of 22,000 through more than 100 public performances. We offer more than 40 ensemble and enrichment training options, ranging from symphony and string orchestras, and jazz and steel pan bands to music theory, composition, and international tours, providing quality musical experiences for a wide range of skill levels.

The importance of MYSO as a catalyst for youth development and community change has not gone unnoticed. In the 2015–16 season, MYSO received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, the country’s highest honor for after-school youth arts and humanities programs, presented by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

MYSO is a proud founding member of the United Performing Arts Fund and is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Brief History

In the early 1950s, a number of visionary leaders within the Junior League of Milwaukee, Rotary Club of Milwaukee, and the Milwaukee Art Institute 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 (CAP) was created. The first orchestra was originally named the “CAPsters.”

In 1955, Mrs. Peter Holbrook and Mrs. Lloyd Lewis of the Junior League met with Mr. Jack Lindsey about making music part of the Children’s Arts Program. That is when Lloyd first heard Peter’s dream about challenging kids to play higher level music. And so, in 1956, the children’s music program was created and incorporated in 1960 as Music For Youth (MFY); 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.

Lloyd and Mary are glad to see that MYSO is still thriving and that there continues to be a community demand for youth music education. Lloyd reflected that, “It’s fun to see something grow.” And Mary emphasized that, “It was all worth it. To get to know those kids was so fun. Such an inspiration.”

The Milwaukee Youth Arts Center

MYSO is committed to connecting our community through collaborative partnerships, engaging more diverse populations and  representation from the region in which we live and work.

A unique and nationally-recognized example of this commitment is our facility, the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center (MYAC). In an innovative collaboration with First Stage (our equally successful counterpart in youth theater training), we jointly completed the purchase, renovation, and relocation to MYAC in 2005. MYAC, the result of a $12 million campaign, was thoughtfully designed to be a collaborative youth arts center that enables both organizations to succeed in expanding arts education to City of Milwaukee youth and beyond.

Located in Milwaukee’s central city, MYAC also serves as a safe and welcoming place for all children to engage in the arts. MYAC creates a space that truly builds community, bringing together students from more than 200 schools in ways through which these young people would otherwise not connect.

You Can Make a Difference

Your donation can help MYSO continue changing lives in the city of Milwaukee and surrounding communities.

Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, Inc. is a 501(c)3 charitable organization. Gifts are deductible to the full extent of the law. Donors should consult their tax advisors about the deductibility of this gift.

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