Mission & History

For more than forty-five 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 UsGTCYS transforms young musicians of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds by breaking down barriers to music instruction and providing exceptional year-round orchestral experiences. As one of the country’s leading youth orchestra programs, GTCYS serves more than 1,000 students ages 8-18 through nine academic-year orchestras, two summer programs, and Harmony violin instruction program. Committed to making our programs accessible, GTCYS will award over $100,000 in need-based tuition and private lesson scholarships this year. In addition, we have expanded our Harmony violin instruction program to serve 60 third, fourth, and fifth graders at Riverview Elementary on St. Paul’s West Side. GTCYS believes in bringing music to diverse audiences, and our students will share their talents through more than 25 free and ticketed performances at Twin Cities schools, homeless shelters, and care centers, plus formal concerts at Orchestra Hall and the Ordway. In total, GTCYS will reach more than 17,000 children and adults through our educational programs, free community activities, concerts, and special events this year.


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 and toured Argentina in 2016. Most recently, GTCYS’ Eastern Europe tour in June 2018 introduced students to Germany, Poland, and Hungary, and included a residency at the Krzysztof Penderecki European Centre for Music. 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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