"Every week, I get to see my best friends and make music with passionate people. In MYSO, I know I am part of something incredible and that's a wonderful feeling," says Katherine Idleman.
Idleman is one of the thousand students that participate in the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO), which is the largest and most respected after-school orchestral program. With symphony orchestras, jazz ensembles, and steel pan ensembles, MYSO provides opportunities for all types of musicians. Students, elementary through high school, are able to enjoy this program regardless of financial background.
By joining an ensemble or orchestra, students are able to engage in workshops and become involved with their community. These workshops not only allow musicians to play alongside Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra members, but they also teach students to improve their musicality and practice more efficiently. Up to five times a year, students perform for a variety of audiences to demonstrate their musical expertise and show their community the value of a musical education.
The experience of being part of a symphony allows young virtuosos to prepare for a musical career and grow as individuals. Kaitlyn Rian, a representative of three MYSO programs, asserts, "MYSO has taught me how to be organized and self-motivated while helping me gain the skills necessary to one day pursue a career as a professional musician." Some people do not have access to a complete musical education at their school. Idleman, a trumpet player in the Senior Symphony, claims "If it were not for MYSO, I would not have the crucial orchestral experience that will help me so much in college."
Every other year, the members of Senior Symphony travel abroad. In the summer of 2017, this group explored Argentina and Uruguay, where they learned how to tango, visited the Recoleta Cemetery, went to an authentic Argentine ranch, visited the colorful La Boca neighborhood, shopped at Argentinian markets, performed at local concert venues, attended an international soccer game, and immersed themselves in the culture. The students performed both European and South American music, including Shostakovich's Festive Overture and Arturo Márquez's Danzón No. 2. Rian describes her personal experience as a musician on the tour, saying "It was very humbling to play in such beautiful halls in front of very responsive audiences. It was one of the most profound experiences I've ever had."
Programs such as the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra show how music is more than simply about playing notes. With practice, the notes are interwoven to make a phrase, which is then entwined with the efforts of other musicians to make an orchestration. In turn, perhaps these musicians are able to compare their personal actions to notes, their section members to their family, a song to an experience, and a series of performances to their life.