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2022 Year in Review

We’ve had an incredible 2022 at CYSO! Beginning with the second half of our 75th anniversary celebrations and ending with a triumphant performance at The Midwest Clinic, our students stretched and challenged themselves all year long—and created beautiful music along the way. Read on to look back at some of CYSO’s highlights from the past year!


Unforgettable Performances

Symphony Orchestra students receive applause after performing at the Musikvarein

In 2022, CYSO produced 27 concerts between our 12 different ensembles. From the Studebaker Theater to Orchestra Hall, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall to The Midwest Clinic, our young musicians shined for thousands of audience members all across Chicago. In June 2022, we also took the show on the road, as members of Symphony Orchestra set off on tour in Berlin, Leipzig, Prague and Vienna. Over the course of 10 days, students performed at some of the world’s great concert halls, garnering sold out audiences, rave reviews, and memories to last a lifetime.

Commissioning Diverse Works

2022 saw the launch of our Listen to the Future Composer-In-Residence Project, an initiative created in response to the lack of diversity in youth music offerings, especially at the younger levels. Commissions for each of our ensembles give those musicians the unique opportunity to engage with a new work and living composer, and the pieces will be available to the entire youth orchestra field as well. This six-year initiative has already brought about fruitful relationships with composers such as Derrick Gardner, Bernard Rands, and Aaron Gage. Stay tuned for more premieres this spring!

75th Anniversary Celebrations

The spring saw the second half of CYSO’s 75th anniversary season. In March, we smashed fundraising records at the  2022 CYSO Gala: Listen to the Future. Celebrating the past, present, and future of CYSO, we were thrilled to feature all three of our top high school ensembles—Symphony, Jazz, and Kaiso Steel Orchestra—all on the main stage, in addition to members of Preparatory Strings, where they were cheered on by more than 400 supporters. Then over the summer, with the help of our illustrious CYSO interns, we launched a new online archive of 75 years of CYSO program books. The archive features fascinating highlights from our seven-and-a-half decades, and makes it a snap for alumni to look up concerts they played on during their CYSO years.

CYSO Featured in “Good Night Oscar” with Sean Hayes

Earlier this year, CYSO took part in a collaboration with the Goodman Theatre and Emmy Award-winning actor and producer Sean Hayes (Will & Grace), star of the new play Good Night, Oscar. In the production, Hayes starred as Oscar Levant, a musician, actor and composer whose witty personality made him a regular on talk shows in the 1950s and 60s. At a key moment in the play, Oscar performs an excerpt from Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue accompanied by a recorded orchestra track. We were thrilled to be asked by the show’s producers to create that track with musicians from CYSO’s Symphony Orchestra, who got to work with Sean himself during rehearsals.

Education Concerts and New Partnerships

Our Education and Community Outreach programs continue to flourish in 2022. We expanded to five in-school CYSO@CPS programs that provide in-school coaching across the south and west sides of the city. And this fall, our Preludes program—an exploratory partnership year that offers CYSO services to schools at no cost—expanded to include new partnerships with South Loop Elementary, Polaris Charter Academy in West Humboldt Park, and Dewey Elementary Academy of Fine Arts in Englewood. 

Our Incredible Students

We continue to be wowed by the incredible things our students achieve both on and off this stage. In 2022, we introduced monthly Student Feature interviews, featuring students who excel at ballet and musical theater, support healthcare workers through their community service, and apprentice with a pro orchestra. In addition, the class of 2022 didn’t disappoint! We celebrated the graduations of 106 seniors last year who headed off to 42 colleges, conservatories, and universities and earned a whopping $7.2 million dollars in scholarships!

Our Amazing Alumni

Not to be outdone by current students, CYSO alumni also shone bright in 2022. We celebrated as major orchestras across North America welcomed CYSO alums to their ranks, including the Toronto Symphony and Lucie Ticho, ’16 (cello); the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Bea Chen, ’18 (viola); the Boston Symphony and Andrew Sandwick, ’10 (bass clarinet); the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Joe Bricker ’15, (associate principal timpani and section percussion), and the Oregon Symphony and Kayla Cabrera ’17 (viola). CYSO alumni now play in more than 60 professional orchestras across the globe.

CYSO Radio Takeover

In 2022, CYSO students were broadcast across the airwaves in Chicago and nationally. After a long hiatus from recording because of the pandemic, NPR’s nationally-broadcast From the Top! featured a whopping 10 CYSO students, including Anika Veda and Zachary Allen; Taki Salameh, Owen Riordan, Calleigh Riordan, alum Deaglan Sullivan, and alum Noah Chen; Louis and Henry Auxenfans; and Aleo Esparza. And our friends at WFMT’s Introductions continued to highlight CYSO regularly, broadcasting our Symphony Orchestra performances, in addition to solo recitals from more than a dozen CYSO students, as well as a Class of 2022-themed episode, and including composition seminar student Jonathan Miller in the Black composers episode.

An Honor to be Recognized

In 2022, CYSO was featured both nationally by the League of American Orchestras and here at home by Illinois Council of Orchestras. As a result of our diversity, equity, and inclusion work, CYSO was featured in the League of American Orchestra’s case study “A Youth Orchestra’s Approach to EDI” case study as a model for the industry. And at our spring 2022 Orchestra Hall concert, we accepted the Illinois Council of Orchestras’ Youth Orchestra of the Year award, one we were especially proud to receive as it honored our 20-21 season and CYSO’s response to the COVID pandemic. In addition, CYSO featured prominently in an episode of WBEZ’s Curious City featuring two alums who now play in CSO.

In Memoriam: Terrance Malone Gray

While no year can go by with only highlights, we wanted to acknowledge the great loss we faced in 2022 with the sudden passing of Associate Conductor Terrance Malone Gray. Terrance was CYSO’s longest serving employee, leading ensembles with his trademark enthusiasm for nearly 30 years. Thousands of CYSO musicians were shaped under his baton and the inspiration he provided as a role model and mentor is unmatched. Terrance was also a vital force within Chicago’s music community, touching the lives of countless fellow players and audience members alike. His legacy is one of boundless joy and unparalleled musicianship. This season’s concerts have been dedicated to Terrance’s memory. Stay tuned in 2023 for more information on larger tributes to come.

As we embark on the new year, we at CYSO would like to extend our thanks to all our students, families, and staff for their hard work and dedication throughout 2022. Here’s to an exciting new year full of music and joy! 

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