More Than Music

The MYSO Story.

We Are Milwaukee Youth
Symphony Orchestra

Since 1956, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO) has been nurturing, challenging, and inspiring generations of students and profoundly changing lives and our community for the better.

MYSO has grown from one orchestra and 30 students to become the largest after-school youth orchestra in the country, and one of the most respected. We serve 6,000 students annually through more than 40 ensemble and supplemental training programs.


Our Story

In the early 1950’s, a number of visionary leaders within the Junior League of Milwaukee, Rotary Club 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.

In 1955, Mrs. Peter Holbrook and Mrs. Lloyd Lewis of the Junior League met with Mr. Jack Lindsey about making music part of the Arts Program. That is when Lloyd first heard Peter’s dream about challenging kids to play higher level music. And so, in 1956, the children’s music program was created and incorporated in 1960 as Music For Youth (MFY); 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.

Lloyd and Mary are glad to see that MYSO is still thriving and that there continues to be a community demand for youth music education. Lloyd reflected that, “It’s fun to see something grow.” And Mary emphasized that, “It was all worth it. To get to know those kids was so fun. Such an inspiration.”


The Milwaukee Youth Arts Center

MYSO is committed to connecting our community through collaborative partnerships, engaging more diverse populations and more representation from the region in which we live and work.

A unique and nationally-recognized example of this commitment is our facility, the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center (MYAC). MYSO, in an innovative collaboration with First Stage (our equally successful counterpart in youth theater training), completed the purchase, renovation and relocation to MYAC in 2005. MYAC, the result of a $12 million campaign, was thoughtfully designed to be a collaborative youth arts center that enables both organizations to succeed in expanding reach to City of Milwaukee youth and beyond.

Located in Milwaukee’s central city, MYAC also serves as a safe and welcoming facility for all children to engage in the arts. MYAC creates a place that truly builds community, bringing together students from more than 14 counties in ways through which these young people would otherwise not connect.


You Can Make a Difference

Your donation can help MYSO continue changing lives in the city of
Milwaukee and surrounding communities.

Learn How