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

GTCYS opens doors to music learning and provides a pathway for students of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. Using music as a vehicle with a developmental approach, our educational programs break down barriers, inspiring students to excel musically and build lifelong skills which serve them in school and beyond.

As one of the country’s leading youth orchestra programs, GTCYS typically serves more than 1,000 students ages 8-18 through year-round programs which include ten school-year orchestras, summer camps, and our Harmony strings instruction program for underrepresented youth. Rather than capping enrollment, GTCYS continually expands its programming to meet growing interest and community needs. Started in 2016, GTCYS’ equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives remain a top priority. To make our programs accessible and address socio- economic barriers, GTCYS will award $140,000 in tuition assistance and support for private lessons in 2021-22.

GTCYS believes in bringing music to diverse audiences and, in a typical year, our students share their talents through 30 free and ticketed performances at Twin Cities schools, homeless shelters, and senior care centers, plus formal concerts at premier venues like Orchestra Hall and The Ordway. In total, GTCYS reaches more than 17,000 children and adults through our educational programs, free community activities, concerts, and special events each 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, 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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