By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Mar 28, 2017 at 9:06 AM

For more than five decades, the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra has been living up to its motto: "Instrumental in Changing Lives."

With a catalog of outstanding musicians and teachers – led by Artist-in-Residence Frank Almond, the internationally praised violinist and concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra – the MYSO has brought music into the world of thousands and thousands of children.

MYSO is one of the member groups of the United Performing Arts Fund, which is underway with the 50th anniversary year of raising funds and supporting the performing arts in Milwaukee. UPAF is the largest arts fundraising organization in the United States.

MYSO’s talented music faculty members blend creativity and pedagogical expertise with their great breadth of musical knowledge. They come from all corners of the musical world and include UW-Milwaukee faculty, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra players, seasoned and recognized school educators, and other noted area musicians.

MYSO’s administrative staff has doubled the organization’s enrollment over the past 15 years, while successfully completing the fundraising for, and building of, the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, which it shares with First Stage. The MYSO family is dedicated not only to training future performers and music educators, but also to instilling in many thousands of young people a much deeper appreciation of the arts – fine music in particular.

"Through the generous community-wide support of the United Performing Arts Fund, the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra has received more than $6,781,736 since 1967 to invest in generations of young musicians who have developed confidence, creativity and collaborative life skills," said Linda Edelstein, executive director of the MYSO. "UPAF gifts help us to engage hundreds of exceptional local musicians and teaching artists, and partner with other performing arts organizations, contributing to the support of a vibrant local arts community."

In 2005, MYSO moved into the acclaimed Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, a collaborative initiative of MYSO and First Stage. Home to dance and vocal music training programs, as well, this 56,000 sq. ft. state of the art facility in Milwaukee’s historic Schlitz Park has become a national model for arts education, with a mission of using the arts to enhance all children’s lives. Several innovative MYSO offerings, prompted and made possible by the move, have received notable awards and recognition, particularly for MYSO’s ambitious efforts in outreach and community partnerships.  

MYSO has grown from a single orchestra of thirty to become, by several measures, one of the largest and most extensive youth orchestra program in the country. Serving 1,000 talented young musicians from as many as 14 counties, 60 communities and more than 200 schools in southeastern Wisconsin, MYSO’s extensive schedule of rehearsals, performances, outreach initiatives and enrichment opportunities also includes a large chamber music program, theory and composition classes, free masterclasses, workshops, competitions and more.

"As a founding member and proud partner of UPAF, MYSO benefits from UPAF’s outstanding marketing and public relations opportunities available to all its Member and Affiliate organization," Edelstein said. "UPAF has a unique capacity to build awareness and appreciation for the critical role the performing arts play in the quality of life in our region.   This adds substantial value to the partnership between MYSO and UPAF, above and beyond their financial support to us."

The MYSO performs a number of times during the season and also takes major tours, like this summer’s trip to Argentina and Uruguay, but the major impact is in the community outreach program.

"The larger story of the collective success between UPAF and MYSO lies not in a few discrete events, but in what has transpired over the past 50 years of our 61-year existence," Edelstein said. "UPAF funding has helped MYSO transform itself into a foundational arts organization for the performing arts community in Milwaukee, helping to develop future performers and future audiences.  

"The development of our robust Community Partnership Program, begun in 2003 and funded in part by Arts Education Grants from UPAF, allows donors and civic leaders the opportunity to support critical arts programming to City of Milwaukee school kids with barriers of access to music education and promote diversity in the arts. We are literally building community by introducing kids and families who would not have met under normal circumstances to share common goals, rise to challenges and develop a collaborative spirit together, through the universal language of music."

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.