Grantee Spotlight: New York Youth Symphony

Now in its 52nd season, the New York Youth Symphony (NYYS) has been providing music education and performance opportunities to teenage and college-aged students in the tristate area for over 50 years.  The symphony accepts about 240 students each year through merit-based auditions, and is committed to providing quality education and mentorship.  Students are accepted regardless of ability to pay, says Shauna Quill, executive director of NYYS, and the organization strives to be an inclusive one that reflects the diversity of the New York metropolitan area.  “It’s been tuition-free since 1963, and will remain so as long as we’re around.” Shauna says.

NYYS encompasses a range of performance and educational programs.  The flagship program is the Youth Orchestra, a 110-plus-member orchestra that focuses on classical music.  Other performance-based programs include the Chamber Music Program, which includes over 80 musicians each season, and the 17-member Jazz Band Classic, a swing-era ensemble modeled on the bands of the 1930s and 1940s.  Members of these programs rehearse regularly under the tutelage of professional coaches, with the season culminating in public performances in renowned venues such as Carnegie Hall.  NYYS also offers intensive programs in conducting and composition, which are taught by leading artists in the field.

Photos by Marc Schreiner

Although NYYS has a long and illustrious history, the organization remains a forward-thinking one.  Next summer, NYYS will pack up and hit the road on its first-ever tour.  Members of the symphony orchestra will be traveling to Argentina for three performances in Buenos Aires and the surrounding area, playing pieces from the 2014-15 season.  The selection will include “Fresh”, an original composition commissioned through the NYYS First Music Program, a competition for young, emerging composers.  The trip, funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign, will also include cultural exchanges with local students and musicians, and a bit of sightseeing.  

In addition to a first-class education and plenty of performance opportunities, NYYS believes that a sense of community is equally important for budding artists.  “NYYS students are visiting after-school programs, hospitals, and community centers to engage with their constituents,” said Shauna, “teaching the NYYS students the value of community service — a life lesson we hope will remain with them for many years to come.”  The organization sends members to perform for senior citizens, as well as for audiences with special needs, such as children with disabilities or patients with cancer.  To expose youth to the world of classical music, especially in a climate of declining funding for arts education, NYYS also offers complimentary tickets to NYYS performances to students from underprivileged schools.

The 52nd season started in November and will continue through May 2015.  Visit NYYS’s website to purchase tickets and learn more!

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