GTCYS Launches 50th Anniversary Season

Nonprofit youth orchestra to celebrate milestone year with “Play it Forward” giving campaign and unique performances at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis. See more at gtcys.org/50years.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Sept. 20, 2021) — This month, Saint Paul-based nonprofit youth orchestra Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (GTCYS) will begin a yearlong celebration of its 50th consecutive season. Over the last five decades, GTCYS has inspired thousands of Minnesota students who have a passion for expressing themselves through music, providing opportunities through 10 different school-year orchestras, summer camps and Harmony strings instruction program for underrepresented youth. The result is a rigorous and inspiring learning community that annually serves more than 1,000 students, ages eight through 18, who represent all backgrounds and playing abilities.

“For 50 years, GTCYS has been driven by its founding values of excellence, teamwork, and community engagement, all of which have made it into one of today’s top youth orchestras in the country. Through music education, we cultivate thoughtful, well-rounded individuals who care for themselves and others,” said GTCYS Executive Director Megen Balda. “As we celebrate this significant milestone, we are invigorated by the many new opportunities ahead and are thankful for our talented young musicians, music educators, donors, and alumni.”

GTCYS’ 50th season runs September 2021 through June 2022. The nonprofit will commemorate its impressive milestone through a special “Play it Forward” fundraising campaign in addition to exciting events and performances over the course of the year, beginning with an anniversary kickoff celebration at Minneapolis’s Orchestra Hall on November 14. Featuring orchestra donors, alumni, current and former board members, conductors, and staff, programming will include a chamber music performance by alumni and remarks from the organization’s current and previous leaders, including GTCYS’ first and longtime music director, Dr. William LaRue Jones.

“GTCYS is a special learning community that meets young musicians where they are at and supports them in their development, both musically and personally. There has always been a place for everyone here – and there always will be,” said Mark Russell Smith, artistic director of GTCYS. “This anniversary is more than just a flashy milestone; it represents 50 years of cultivating creativity, making music, and developing our community’s future leaders. We look forward to continuing this growth by reflecting on the past, enjoying the present and shaping new generations of Minnesota musicians.”

In addition to the anniversary kickoff celebration, students in GTCYS’ Symphony will have the unique privilege of rehearsing weekly onstage at Orchestra Hall throughout the year — an opportunity typically reserved for professional musicians. All GTCYS students will perform onstage at the venue on November 13-14 in the organization’s largest performances for in-person audiences since the pandemic began.

Further celebratory programming will include the premiere of three new pieces by Chris Rochester, Reinaldo Moya and William Owens, each exclusively commissioned for GTCYS’ east metro orchestras, and a special 50th Anniversary International Concert Tour to Italy in June 2022. GTCYS’ annual “Orchestrating Opportunities” benefit featuring its Symphony orchestra, Harmony program and a guest soloist will take place on April 16 at Orchestra Hall. GTCYS alumna and prominent broadcast journalist Gretchen Carlson will emcee the event.

Since 1972, GTCYS has helped more than 16,000 young people pursue excellence, practice teamwork and explore their connection to the world around them. These young people blossom into prominent alumni who become involved in their communities in Minnesota, across the U.S. and abroad. Many remain active in the GTCYS network through social events, volunteering and fundraising, and carrying on its distinctive legacy of learning and building a brighter future for young students.

Photos of past GTCYS performances are available for download here.

About Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (GTCYS)
The Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (GTCYS) opens doors to music learning and provides a pathway for students of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. 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, including 10 school-year orchestras, summer camps, and Harmony strings instruction program for underrepresented youth. To make our programs accessible, GTCYS awards more than $140,000 in tuition assistance and support for private lessons. 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, each year GTCYS reaches more than 16,000 children and adults through our educational programs, free community activities, concerts, and special events.

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