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CYSO’s Equity & Inclusion Work Featured in Case Study from League of American Orchestras

CYSO has had the honor of receiving funding from the League of American Orchestras’ Catalyst Fund twice over the past few years to support our equity, diversity, and inclusion work, and we are thrilled to have this work recently featured in a case study about fund grantees.

Thanks to the Catalyst Fund, in 2019, CYSO completed an “inclusion audit” to examine the ways in which our programs, policies, and procedures were inclusionary, especially around issues of race and ethnicity. In 2021, we received funding again to explore accessibility across our programs and materials with the hope of creating a more welcoming and supportive environment for students with disabilities.

"Kids must have an exceptional experience with us to go on," says Executive Director Susan Lape. If their individual needs are not met, they may not go on in music, even if they have talent. "The experiences students have with CYSO set the tone for their musical journey, especially as they explore more competitive levels of instrumental music. If we do our jobs well and every student feels heard and uplifted here, that means that our students will be that much more empowered and courageous as they take their next steps in music and in their lives. If students feel discouraged or misunderstood at CYSO, we risk losing great musical talent that could enrich the future of our city and our field." Quote with photo of CYSO student on stage at Orchestra Hall
Screenshot from the case study

Our work was recently featured in “A Youth Orchestra’s Approach to EDI,” a Catalyst Snapshot case study published by the League of American Orchestras. These case studies are meant to share learning across the industry and CYSO was proud to be the only youth orchestra featured among other professional orchestras. Executive Director Susan Lape and Community Engagement Manager Karen Mari were both interviewed about what we’ve learned through this work, the challenges and pitfalls we’ve faced, and how CYSO has put our learning into practice in actionable ways.

Efforts toward inclusion of all groups benefit the whole student body. "We can't assume that any one identity group will have issues consistent to that identity group," says Community & Family Engagement Coordiantor Karen Mari. For example, while financial assistance is generally very helpful for students whose families have middle or lower incomes, that is only one small piece of the puzzle when it comes to understanding what every student needs to succeed and do their best work. "When we make effort to understand and include every student throughout the school year," says Mari, "rather than expecting a student to go out of their way to ask for help, we end of learning a lot about the unique needs and challenges facing young musicians and their families. That puts us in a much better position to help" Quote and photo of three oboe players from tour.
Screenshot from the case study

We are proud to be part of the important work of making CYSO, and the entire orchestra field, more responsive and welcoming to musicians of various backgrounds, abilities, and identities, and look forward to continuing our EDI learning for seasons to come.

You can check out all the case studies on the League of American Orchestras website or read CYSO’s report here.

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