The Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO) nurtures, challenges, and inspires young minds through music -- profoundly changing lives and our community for the better.
The largest after-school youth orchestra program in the country, MYSO offers 40 ensemble and enrichment programs -- from chamber ensembles, symphonies, string orchestras, jazz, and steel-pan bands to music theory, composition, and international tours -- that provide high-quality experiences to students ages 8 to 18 from southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Our programs promote not only musical skills, but also cognitive, emotional, and social skills that students will need to succeed in any walk of life.
Research shows, for example, that 73% of our Community Partnership Programs students display gains in character skills, 87% display gains in cognitive skills, and 91% display gains in musical skills. All students show gains in skills such as time management, discipline, leadership, and self-expression. Over five years, 52% of MYSO students display growth during their programs, compared to 30% to 40% for students in other youth arts organizations in the region.
MYSO responds to the great and growing need for participatory music education among Milwaukee-area youths, many of whom lack access to it because of barriers including finances. Of our student musicians, half are youths of color, up from 12% in 2003; 40% receive financial aid for participation; and 20% come from vulnerable neighborhoods such as ZIP codes 53204, 53205, 53206, 53208, 53210, 53212, 53215, 53216, 53218, and 53233. Of the students in our Community Partnership Programs, which target urban youths, 70% are people of color; 75% come from families with low to moderate incomes; and 65% live in Milwaukee.
We never turn away a student because of finances, and we ensure that all students have access to necessary resources. Although we require a fee for students in most ensembles, we ensure that programming is affordable and accessible. Because fees cover only a fraction of the actual cost ($5,000 per Community Partnership Programs student), community support is critical to providing student aid and access. Up to 90% of a student’s fee can be supported by financial aid, which can also cover items and services including instruments and transportation.
MYSO is especially important, given limited music options in schools during a time of budget constraints -- and COVID-19. Students and parents are increasingly turning to MYSO, especially as more than two years of isolation and anxiety have stressed youths’ mental and emotional health. Young people need the benefits of our safe, in-person programming – among them socialization, teamwork, discipline, empathy, leadership, creativity, and problem-solving – more than ever. With the pandemic’s strain on student health, that need likely will remain significant even long after COVID-19 finally wanes. (If the pandemic requires it in 2022-23, we will revert to the successful hybrid of virtual -- livestream and video -- and in-person programming that we presented successfully in 2020-21.)
325 W Walnut St, Milwaukee, WI 53212, USA.