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

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 1,300 students ages 7-18 through our Harmony strings instruction program, Launch Lessons, Pathway Musicians program, 11 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 over $230,000 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!


Since its founding in 1972, GTCYS (pronounced “GIT-seez”) has provided high-quality orchestral programs for beginning to pre-professional music students from across the region. In 2012, Artistic Director Mark Russell Smith joined GTCYS, providing dynamic leadership and artistic oversight of our programs. Using a comprehensive approach to music education focusing on both access and excellence, our programs provide enriching opportunities which inspire students to excel to the highest levels of musicianship and develop lifelong skills that benefit them in school and beyond. Renowned for its rich international touring history, GTCYS’ flagship orchestra, Symphony, tours biennially, most recently to Southern Italy (2022), Eastern Europe (2018), Argentina (2016), and Spain (2014).

Notable historical highlights include: performing at the Schools Promenade Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London (1978) and performing at the Super Bowl pre-game show (1992) under founding artistic director Dr. William Larue Jones, recording “Classics for Kids…By Kids” cd (2000) under the leadership of Paul Zdunek, launching Harmony strings program (2016), and recording a music video at the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit (2022).


Serving Community.
Supported by Community.

Explore stories from students, staff, families, donors, and alumni. Learn about our programs and community impact.

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