About MYSO

Instrumental In Changing Lives

At the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO), we empower young people from diverse backgrounds to joyfully pursue musical excellence while building crucial life skills.

MYSO is one of the most successful and respected youth orchestra programs in the nation, regularly recognized regionally, nationally and internationally for its artistic excellence.

With 1,000 young musicians ages 8‐18 from as many as 215 schools, 60 communities, and 14 counties throughout southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois participating in MYSO’s many music training programs, it has become one of the largest organizations of its kind in the United States.

Instrumental in changing lives since 1956, MYSO’s programs foster critical thinking skills, creativity and collaboration through a constellation of high quality ensemble options, Community Partnership Programs and enrichment opportunities ranging from symphony and string orchestras, to jazz and steel pan bands, all providing high quality musical experiences to students at various skill levels.


Why We Matter

A great deal of research has proven the myriad positive effects of music study on individual development, school performance and cognitive growth in young people.

Moreover, MYSO’s own research of its alumni revealed that MYSO alums point to their MYSO experience as having an effect on the development of their:

  • Sense of teamwork/group work ethic
  • Self-discipline
  • Confidence
  • Time management and organizational skills
  • Ability to work with people from different backgrounds
  • Commitment
  • Dedication
  • Drive and determination

They believed the MYSO experience helped to shape their:

  • social and emotional development
  • creativity
  • open-mindedness
  • professionalism
  • ethics and values
  • ability to set and attain goals
  • focus
  • ability to receive criticism
  • ability to perform under pressure

Our History

In 1956, a number of visionary leaders within the Junior League, Rotary of Milwaukee and the War Memorial wisely determined that Milwaukee needed to develop arts opportunities for the community’s young people. With support from all three institutions, the Children’s Arts Program was created—and along with it the Capsters, a fledgling orchestra of 30 eager young musicians.


From that erstwhile group, Music For Youth (MFY) was eventually born, incorporating in 1960; MFY became a charter member of Milwaukee’s United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) in 1969, later moving into the brand new Performing Arts Center (now the Marcus Center) as an anchor tenant, changing its name to Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO) in 1988, to better describe the organization’s activities and locale.

Our Impact

  • "I made life-long friendships and contacts through MYSO...I can’t think of another place where a young person could meet so many other young people who hold themselves to such high standards."

  • "At MYSO I saw the results that can come when everyone in a group commits time and hard work to a collective cause."

  • "MYSO opened doors to other experiences—musical and otherwise."