String program for City of Milwaukee 3rd and 4th graders, through school nomination only.

An Innovative String Training Program

Progressions, a part of MYSO’s innovative Community Partnership Programs, is an immersive string training program, which provides private instruction and orchestral training in violin, viola, cello and bass to 3rd and 4th grade students who have limited musical experience and live in or attend a school in the City of Milwaukee.

One of the primary aims of Progressions is increased participation in MYSO by students from populations (e.g., racial, ethnic, socioeconomic) that face barriers of access and equity in music study. All (100%) of Progressions students come from low-to-moderate income families and 91% are students of color.

Progressions is heavily contribution-based, with all students receiving virtually full scholarships for instruments, private lessons, membership, and transportation as needed. Families, all of whom have limited financial resources, were asked to pay just $75 in 2021-22, though the actual cost is approximately $4,000/student.

Progressions accepts students only via nomination from school principals, teachers and music directors. Each school year, MYSO enrolls approximately 60 new Progressions students from schools throughout the City of Milwaukee.

At a Glance

  • Students are required to report to MYSO three times per week between Monday-Thursday, for approximately 1-2 hours each day, in the late afternoon/early evening
  • Most students are in grades 3-4
  • Director: Dr. Janet Jensen
  • For more information, please call the office at (414) 267-2950 or email

Upcoming Events

The Progressions Staff

Janet Jensen

Retiring String Orch & Prelude Orchestra Music Dir. | Progressions Director

Ravenna Helson

Progressions Cello Instructor

John Babbitt

Progressions Bass Instructor
Janet Jensen

Janet Jensen

Position: Retiring String Orch & Prelude Orchestra Music Dir. | Progressions Director
Categories: Orchestral & Musical Studies, Progressions, Prelude Wind Ensemble, MYSO Scholars

Dr. Janet Jensen serves as Progressions Director, and Music Director of Prelude Orchestra and the combined String Orchestras North and Central.

She joined the MYSO staff following her 2016 retirement from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she was Professor of String Pedagogy and Associate Director of the School of Music. Her teaching responsibilities included preparation for teaching strings in multiple settings, coursework in string literature and repertoire, and conducting the non-major All-University String Orchestras. She also directed the masters degree in String Development, a degree focused on string teaching, performance and administrative skills. As Associate Director, she oversaw undergraduate admissions, advising, and scholarship and award allocation.

Prior to her UW-Madison appointment, Dr. Jensen held interim and instructor positions in string pedagogy and string education at Oberlin Conservatory, Bowling Green (OH) State University, and the University of Texas at Austin, and she taught instrumental music in Rockford, IL and Watertown and Madison for 10 years.

Herself an alumna of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra (WYSO), Dr. Jensen has served as a WYSO conductor, board member, and director of the chamber music program, and has also been a staff member and advisor of UW-Madison’s Summer Music Clinic for more than 30 years.

She is a strong supporter of outreach programs in the arts, lifelong learning and engagement in music, and advocacy for policy decisions in support of arts education. Her research interests have included arts education policy, pedagogy curricula, iconographic representations of historical bows, and the Swedish bowed/keyed instrument nyckelharpa.

Her MYSO association began with Progressions teaching in 2005, and has included chamber coaching in many of the years since.

Her proudest achievement is the cumulative enrollment of over 2800 students in the All-University String Orchestras, and she was named the 2016 String Teacher of the Year by the Wisconsin American String Teachers Association.

Dr. Jensen holds Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music degrees from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin.


Ravenna Helson

Ravenna Helson

Position: Progressions Cello Instructor
Categories: Progressions, Prelude Wind Ensemble, MYSO Scholars

Ravenna Helson is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and Yale University where she received an MM degree and the Ellen Battell Stoeckel Award for Excellence in Chamber Music.

She has performed with the Detroit Symphony, Michigan Opera Theater, New Jersey Symphony, Santa Fe Pro Musica, Chicago Baroque Ensemble, Her Majesty’s Clerks and Comic Intermezzo.

In Milwaukee she has played with the Milwaukee Symphony, Skylight Opera Orchestra, Ensemble Musical Offering, Bel Canto Chorus and Orchestra and is currently principal cello of the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra. Theater work includes the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Twelfth Night and Anna Karenina.

As a faculty member of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Alverno College and Carroll University, she has taught cello and chamber music and performed concerts and educational workshops with the Carroll String Trio. As a student she was invited to participate in the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico with Alexander Schneider’s NY String Orchestra and additionally has been a fellow at the Oberlin Baroque Institute, the International Baroque Institute at Longy and the Bach Aria Festival in New York.

Studies in Baroque cello/viola da gamba have been with Anner Bylsma, Phoebe Carrai, Catharina Meints and Enid Sutherland.



John Babbitt

John Babbitt

Position: Progressions Bass Instructor
Categories: Progressions, Prelude Wind Ensemble, MYSO Scholars

Mr. Babbitt graduated in 1985 from the UWM with an MM degree in double bass performance. He has worked extensively throughout the Midwest as a professional bassist and educator.

As a performer he has worked with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra, Green Bay Symphony Orchestra, Festival City Symphony, Kenosha Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Philharmonic, Bel Canto Chorus and Orchestra, Skylight Opera, Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, Florentine Opera and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. He is also active as a jazz performer, having worked with Chuck Hedges, David Hazeltine and Manty Ellis.

Mr. Babbitt served as Wisconsin Conservatory of Music faculty chair of the String Department from 1996 to 1999 and has also served as adjunct faculty at UWM, UW-Stevens Point, Concordia University, Cardinal Stitch University, Carroll College, Alverno College Community Arts Department, the String Academy of Wisconsin and the Oshkosh Summer String Program.

Mr. Babbitt has been an instructor with the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music since 1994 in bass, theory and music history.




Interested in Auditioning?

Each student is required to audition to become a member of MYSO. Being a MYSO member is a rewarding experience that drives a student’s musical, learning, and social skills.
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