Supplemental Programs

From reading workshops to masterclasses, grow your passion at MYSO

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Mastering Your Craft at MYSO

MYSO offers a range of opportunities beyond your immediate ensemble to satisfy your creative musical thirst or hone your musical skills.

Music theory and composition courses allow you to strengthen your foundation or spread your creative wings.

Chamber ensembles, concerto competitions, masterclasses, and reading workshops with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra focus on improving your technical mastery and musicality.

All are coached or taught by the region’s most sought-after musicians, music educators and teaching artists.

Composition – John Downey Creation Project

The John Downey Creation Project is a collaboration with with one of America’s premier new
music ensembles, Present Music, to give select MYSO students the opportunity to compose their own piece with the guidance of a professional composer.

The composition is given its world premiere by a MYSO ensemble.

This program is named in memory of world-renowned composer John Downey, resident composer, theory instruction director, and dear friend of MYSO for more than 40 years.

Concerto Competitions

MYSO offers concerto competitions for seven of the MYSO ensembles—Senior Symphony, Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia, Sinfonia, String Orchestra, Chamber Flute Ensemble, and Flute Chorale.

Winners receive the opportunity to perform their solo piece accompanied by members of their own ensemble.

The winner of the Senior Symphony Concerto Competition also receives the Carrie Rondeau Memorial Concerto Scholarship.

Conversation Series

Each season, MYSO presents several free 90-minute sessions especially for parents of MYSO students, led by Director of Theory Instruction and Composition Jim Burmeister, covering a variety of composers and interesting music related topics.

This is a great chance for parents to get a leg up on what our young musicians are learning at MYSO in a casual, fun environment, with a highly educated (and very approachable) guide!

Davidson Chamber Ensemble Program

Each season MYSO invites select MYSO members to apply to participate in the Davidson Chamber Ensemble Program, which provides professional coaching and performance opportunities in a small ensemble setting. This is an exceptional opportunity to explore the richness of the chamber repertoire.

Working with a smaller ensemble (generally 4 to 5 people) is quite different from playing with an orchestra or band. When performing chamber literature one learns how to make the musical decisions that conductors normally make in larger ensembles. With this new responsibility, musicianship will improve as new musical challenges are faced. It is a unique and important part of a complete musical education, and MYSO is proud to offer this excellent opportunity to learn about chamber music and, ultimately, how to think about making music.

Those chosen to participate in the Davidson Chamber Ensemble Program must have a very high level of commitment to the project and a flexible, cooperative mind-set, especially with regard to scheduling and rehearsal locations. It is a significant commitment, but the rewards are many!

MYSO hires professional coaches from the area to work with each ensemble; these may be musicians from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, or other professional groups.

MYSO staff will place students in groups based on instrumentation needs, age, musical expertise, experience, etc.

The Chamber Ensemble Program culminates in the spring, with the Davidson Chamber Ensemble Recitals, a series of four recitals held in Youth Arts Hall at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center.

This wonderful program is supported through the generosity of the late Arthur and Francesca “Peter” Davidson.

Erika Z. Richman Reading Workshop

Since 1995, MYSO and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) have sponsored a wonderfully exciting sight-reading session, open to members of MYSO’s Senior Symphony and Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.

Students read a few very challenging works, under the leadership of MSO conductors and MYSO Artistic Director Carter Simmons, from the great orchestral repertoire, with MSO members playing side-by-side MYSO players. This is made possible through a generous endowment bequest from the late Erika Z. Richman.

This program takes place in early summer at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center.

Master Classes

MYSO is pleased to offer periodic master classes led by Milwaukee area and visiting professional musicians.

A master class is a learning opportunity for students who play a particular instrument, taught by an expert on that instrument. This clinician will give hints, pointers, and practice suggestions to students to improve rehearsal, practice and performance on the instrument. This clinician’s advice will be helpful to everyone who attends, not just those students who are invited to play for the clinician.

At a master class, you will learn more about your instrument, learn more about musicianship, sharpen your skills for upcoming auditions, and have the opportunity to ask many questions about a variety of musical issues.

Recording Sessions

MYSO offers its members the opportunity for an individual professional recording session. This is a great chance to record for college applications, competitions, gifts or just for posterity. There is a nominal cost involved.

Participating musicians receive an unedited CD recording the same day. Further details will be sent via email and announced in rehearsals.

Music Theory Classes

Theory I: Introductory/Intermediate

Scales, intervals, chords, harmonic and choral analysis, sight singing, ear training, harmony and keyboard harmony will be the topics of these classes.

  • When: Mondays, September through April, late afternoon
  • Where: Milwaukee Youth Arts Center
Theory II: Advanced

Topics include sight singing, ear training, harmony, keyboard improvisation, analysis and composition.

  • When: Mondays, September through April, early evening
  • Where: Milwaukee Youth Arts Center


Occasionally, advanced MYSO ensembles will embark on international and/or domestic performance tours.

Touring offers extraordinary opportunities for social and cultural growth, as well as sheer fun and excitement. With the expectation of an outstanding musical experience, touring helps an ensemble—and the individual players—to bond socially; often they are catapulted to an entirely new level of musical performance, both before and during the tour.

MYSO’s wonderful performances in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay in July 2017, as well as in China, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain, Italy, Scotland, etc. in previous years, are all evidence of that phenomenon. For all of these reasons, touring is an exceptionally valuable—sometimes life-changing—aspect of a youth orchestra experience.

Side-by-Side Rehearsals (Mentoring)

MYSO provides opportunities for its musicians to be role models and mentors in “side-by-side” rehearsals with younger players, pairing advanced musicians with those from String Orchestra, and Prelude Orchestra and String Orchestra musicians with MYSO Progressions students, MYSO’s youngest string players.

Are you interested in one of
our programs above?

Contact MYSO