Mission & History

For more than 50 years, GTCYS has transformed students and enriched the community.


In the conviction that music nourishes the body, mind, and spirit of the individual and enriches the community, the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies provides a rigorous and inspiring orchestral experience for young musicians.

About Us

About Us

The Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (GTCYS, pronounced git-seez) opens doors to music learning and provides a pathway for students of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. Our music education programs break down barriers, inspiring students to excel musically and build lifelong skills which serve them in school and beyond.

As one of the region’s premier youth arts programs, GTCYS serves more than 1,000 students ages 7-18 through our Harmony strings instruction program, Launch Lessons, Pathway Musicians program (coming in fall 2023), 10 school-year orchestras, and summer camps. Rather than turning students away, GTCYS continually expands its programming to meet growing interest and community needs. Started in 2016, GTCYS’ equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives have created strong results and remain a top priority. To increase access and address socio-economic barriers, GTCYS provides nearly $200,000 in need-based scholarships for tuition and private lessons.

GTCYS believes in bringing music to diverse audiences, and our students share their talents through 25 free performances at Twin Cities schools, homeless shelters, and senior care centers, plus formal ticketed concerts at professional venues like Orchestra Hall. In total, GTCYS reaches more than 17,000 children and adults through our educational activities, and performances each year.

GTCYS celebrated its 50th Anniversary Season in 2021-22 and has served 16,000 students in its history. Alumni include leaders in every field who use the lifelong values of teamwork, discipline, and community engagement developed during their GTCYS experience. Explore our website to learn more!


Founded in 1972, GTCYS (pronounced “GIT-seez”) has provided high quality orchestral programs for beginning to pre-professional music students from across the region. GTCYS’ depth and breadth of programming and service in the community distinguish us from other youth orchestra programs. Using a holistic approach to music education that focuses on the developmental process, our programs are infused with compelling opportunities which inspire students to excel to the highest levels of musicianship, while developing lifelong skills that will transfer to any career path. GTCYS’ 16,000 alumni include leaders in every field who were instilled with values of teamwork, discipline, and community engagement during their GTCYS experience. In 2012, Artistic Director Mark Russell Smith joined GTCYS, providing dynamic leadership and oversight of our programs. Renowned for our rich international touring history, GTCYS’ Symphony performed by invitation at the Granada International Festival of Music and Dance (Spain) in 2014, toured Argentina in 2016, toured Germany, Poland, and Hungary in 2018 (including a residency at the Krzysztof Penderecki European Centre for Music) and toured Southern Italy in 2022. Through a unique partnership since 2011, GTCYS and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) work together to strengthen our community, build audiences, provide educational opportunities for students, and promote the value of classical music.


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