2023-24 Musician Handbook: School-Year Program & Activities

School-Year Program

This year, more than 800 beginning to advanced students ages 7 – 18 from across the region will participate in one of GTCYS’ ten academic-year orchestras. Rehearsals are the foundation of students’ experience, focusing on the educational process as well as technical and musical skills through full rehearsals and sectionals with professional musicians. GTCYS also provides a social setting where students can feel supported, strive for excellence, and achieve common goals through music. The orchestras, in order of increasing technical proficiency, are:

  • Philharmonia East and West (strings only)
  • Sinfonia East and West
  • Concertino East and West
  • Camerata
  • Concert Orchestra
  • Philharmonic
  • Symphony


Each orchestra has a half-day retreat in the fall and winter with extended rehearsal time and social activities which help students to get to know each other and improve their repertoire together. Retreats are an integral part of the orchestra’s musical and social experience, and all GTCYS expects all students to attend. Students will receive retreat details from GTCYS via email.

Open Rehearsals

Open rehearsals are a way for GTCYS members to introduce their friends to the GTCYS experience in a play-along setting. Each orchestra typically has an open rehearsal in the spring. GTCYS students may bring friends who play orchestral instruments; friends may also attend a different orchestra depending on their ability and comfort level. Stay tuned for other opportunities to introduce your friends to GTCYS, such as online Q & A’s with conductors and staff.

Concerto Competition

(The details below apply to the 2022-23 season Concerto Competition. Updated details for the 2023-24 Concerto Competition will be available soon.)

GTCYS’ Concerto Competition is an annual opportunity for any current GTCYS musician to showcase their individual talents. Contestants prepare a concerto or solo work, record a video with piano accompaniment for professional judges in the preliminary round, and receive educational feedback about their performance. Selected finalists perform in a free public recital with a collaborative pianist. From that round, one or two winners will be selected to perform in concert with GTCYS’ flagship orchestra, Symphony, and Artistic Director Mark Russell Smith. Click here to learn more and to register to compete.

  • Applications are due Friday, October 14: Register here
  • Preliminary Round: Videos accepted through Friday, October 14, 2022
  • Finals Round: Saturday, November 5, 3:00pm at Sundin Hall at Hamline University, St. Paul
  • Winner’s performance with Symphony: Sunday, February 19, 2023, details TBD

Student Volunteer Opportunities (optional and encouraged)

GTCYS offers opportunities for GTCYS students to contribute to their own musical and personal progress and enrich the success of their orchestras and their communities. Students may sign up for volunteer opportunities online. If you have your own volunteer ideas, let us know!

  • Chamber Musician: you are a member of a chamber music ensemble which is interested in performing at special events.
  • Student Musicologist (all students): research a piece your orchestra is working on and share it with audiences at concerts.
  • Social Coordinator: welcome new students at rehearsals, help with new-student orientation, and plan your orchestra’s social activities.
  • Donor/Volunteer Recognition Assistant: write thank you letters and/or make thank you calls to donors and volunteers.
  • Library Aide (grades 8–12): assist GTCYS’ Librarian with music preparation and filing in the office (copying, cleaning, and counting out parts). 

Ambassadors (All Orchestras)

Student Ambassadors are invited to share a presentation about GTCYS with their school orchestra or band. This program is an opportunity for any GTCYS student enrolled in school orchestra or band programs to develop communication skills, demonstrate pride as an orchestral musician, and help peers understand the value of GTCYS’ programs. Details and registration form forthcoming.

Sponsored Lessons

This initiative serves current GTCYS students who qualify for need-based tuition assistance. GTCYS matches these students with a high-quality private instructor and pays for the full cost of weekly lessons. Sponsored Lessons Applications are available online. Contact miranda@gtcys.org with questions.

Student Mentors

Philharmonic and Symphony students can apply to serve as mentors for Philharmonia East, Sinfonia East, Concertino East, and Camerata. By rehearsing and demonstrating in a side-by-side capacity at rehearsals, mentors enhance younger students’ educational experience and deepen their own learning. Applications and program details are forthcoming. Contact Program Director Miranda Bryan at miranda@gtcys.org or 651.602.6807 with any questions.

Thank-You Activities

Members of GTCYS’ orchestras will occasionally be asked to write thank-you notes to donors and/or GTCYS board members who contribute financially to support every students’ participation in GTCYS. This is an opportunity for students to learn more about giving back, while also developing their writing and interpersonal skills. In addition to writing thank-you notes, Philharmonic and Symphony members may be asked to serve as GTCYS ambassadors and speak to guests about GTCYS at concert receptions, board meetings, and/or open rehearsals.

Mentors from the University of Minnesota

Through this partnership between GTCYS’ Symphony and the University of Minnesota’s School of Music, graduate students provide vital leadership at Symphony rehearsals, serve as role models, enhance students’ learning experience, and gain valuable training in the process.

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