Letter from the Artistic Director
GTCYS’ 45th season marks my fifth year as the organization’s artistic director, and I feel immensely honored to work with the wonderful students in our orchestras. It’s a pleasure to welcome back returning students and to meet new musicians eager to make music and new friends in GTCYS.
Our conductors and I are excited to help students achieve their best this year. With more individualized coaching for woodwind and brass students, special artistic collaborations and performances for all eight orchestras, mentoring opportunities, and of course fantastic repertoire, it promises to be a rewarding year for our 620 young musicians. We’re especially pleased to continue our commitment to making the GTCYS experience available to every interested student and will award $50,000 in need-based scholarships this season.
I’m thrilled to announce that we’re launching a new after school violin instruction program with third graders at Riverview Elementary in the West Side community of St. Paul. This new program, Harmony, took shape after a year of community engagement activities with the West Side and a mutual desire to fill a void in music instruction opportunities for youth. We look forward look forward to growing the program as we embark on this long-term collaborative project.
To celebrate the launch of Harmony, Symphony will present a free family concert on October 15 at Neighborhood House on the West Side. Part of our Kids Playing for Kids series, this first concert of the year promises to be a fun and vibrant introduction to the 2016-17 season! Click here for our full season schedule.
We are grateful for your involvement and look forward to seeing you at rehearsals, concerts, and community events!
GTCYS Alumna Betsy McCann Makes Music History
With her recent appointment as the University of Minnesota’s Director of Marching and Athletic Bands, Betsy McCann ‘99 made history as the first woman to lead any Big Ten marching band. Betsy started her career in music education as a GTCYS rehearsal assistant after playing flute for seven years in GTCYS’ orchestras and playing violin in summer orchestras. Betsy graduated from the U of M with a degree in music performance and education and completed a master’s degree in conducting at Northwestern University. She taught high school band before starting at the U of M Marching Band in 2013 as Assistant Director. As a committed educator and musician, Betsy had the following thoughts about GTCYS and the power of music:
Why is GTCYS important to you?
As a student in the orchestras, GTCYS gave me incredible training as an ensemble musician. I loved being in ensembles that pushed me as a musician and I loved being surrounded by other musicians who shared my passion. GTCYS also exposed me to the world of orchestral music, which I absolutely fell in love with (my school didn’t have an orchestra at that time). As a rehearsal assistant, the conductors I worked with gave me invaluable opportunities running sectionals and rehearsing/conducting the full ensembles. Their coaching, and the podium time they generously gave me, were instrumental (no pun intended) in my growth as a young conductor and teacher.
What has the long-term impact of GTCYS been on your personal and professional life?
GTCYS was a huge part of nearly all of my student years as a musician – I joined in my second year as a flutist and either played or worked for GTCYS until I graduated from college. I have no doubt that my great experiences with GTCYS contributed my decision to pursue music as a career.
Why do you think GTCYS is important to the community?
GTCYS provides enriching opportunities for students beyond what they can usually find in their own schools. GTCYS can introduce young people to a world of music, inspiration, hard work, and friendship that they may not even know exists!
Why is music education valuable?
We have all seen news reports and studies about music and brain development and about how music education correlates with higher test scores and cognitive abilities in many areas. I completely believe in the value and importance of all of this – making music is truly an endeavor that activates and builds our minds in so many ways. That said, I also feel that there is so much more to the story. At its core, music education isn’t important because it makes students better at math or in other areas; music education is important because MUSIC is important!
Music education is a necessary part of any well-rounded education in that it facilitates students exploring their creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, social skills, listening, perception, and so much more. Music connects us with others, with our community, with other parts of the world, and with ourselves. Active participation in music does wonders for our minds and our souls. Making music is something that everyone can do, not something reserved for only highly trained musicians. Music education can open the door to music making for everyone.
GTCYS’ National Reach
Congratulations to GTCYS’ Executive Director Megen Balda for being elected as the new Chair of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras’ Youth Orchestra Division (YOD). A member of the YOD Board since 2012, Megen has served as secretary for the last three years and helped shape the group’s public advocacy efforts. As an advisory group to the League, the YOD Board serves as a think tank to promote the value of youth orchestras and strengthen the sector by creating professional development opportunities and peer-to-peer exchanges. In this role, Megen will also represent the YOD as a member of the League’s Board of Directors. “I’m honored to serve in this leadership role and look forward to working with my colleagues around the country to elevate the awareness and importance of youth orchestras to our communities,” said Megen.