Letter of Support from CYSO Student David Stolyarov

Dear CYSO Family,

I wanted to share a letter I recently received from a member of our Symphony Orchestra. We don’t often pause long enough to think about the impact of your support in shaping the lives of our CYSO musicians and the young people in their concert audiences. Take a read and thank you for what you continue to make possible.  Make a gift today to continue to create these memories and moments.

Kindest regards,

Jennie Oh Brown
Executive Director

Dear Dr. Brown,

I am pleased to write this letter in support of Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras. As a percussionist and a member of CYSO’s Symphony Orchestra, I’ve been able to perform some of the most advanced orchestral repertoire and am privileged to play alongside truly dedicated and talented musicians. Maestro Tinkham inspires and challenges us to grow as musicians as well as people, and has taught me lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I have learned the virtue of listening and being present in beautiful moments such as our symphony orchestra rehearsals to clear a muddied stream of consciousness, which facilitates a type of listening and seeing that permits true awareness of the beauty of the art we are creating together. I have learned about the history of the composers whose works we perform, and the responsibility we have to honor those remarkable voices from history— particularly those whose voices may have gone unrecognized and unheard. I have also developed a concrete understanding of the hard work, patience, focus, and intellectual humility that is needed to prepare our individual parts and then collaborate with a vast orchestra of other musicians. 

But some of the most rewarding work that I’ve done as part of CYSO is through the Ambassadors Program. The program brings a small ensemble of CYSO musicians to Chicago Public Schools across the city to provide interactive and educational performances for elementary students. Through this program, I was able to feel the immediate benefits of connecting to students through music performance as well as heartfelt discussion about what music can do for someone in life. In each school, I was filled with joy to see the smiling faces of students who patted their legs and danced in their seats as they were filled with the joy of live music— something that some of the younger students had little experience witnessing before.

I recognized quickly, however, that at many of the schools we attended, seeing a future in music is something that many of the students might have never considered or even believed was possible. Limited access to instrument education in a band or orchestra, or perhaps limited exposure to the power and accessibility of music led some students to question, for example, if they could have music be a part of their life if they wanted to be an athlete or pursue other passions. Thus, throughout the whole process, I felt a strong conviction to connect with these students and emphasize that music is something that can grant us power, freedom, and comfort and can remain as part of our lives alongside many other passions. With students as young as kindergarten, we talked about how music can be a tool for language to get out of the way: through music, we can connect with our history—stories and feelings that cross generations; we can learn other people’s stories; we can communicate and express feelings when words are difficult to find or when language simply isn’t enough.

Meeting with students before and after our performances to let them play some instruments, seeing them laugh as they hit an opera gong for the first time, or danced to a groove their friend played on a woodblock showed me many seeds of young students with much talent and love to give. I will never forget the moment at the end of one of the concerts where I spoke to a young student. She told me that she wanted to play music like us when she was older and that she was going to begin learning drums and piano because she just “loved music so much”. Then she introduced me to her doll— that looked just like her— who she wonderfully assured me “is a music lover too”.

CYSO has been an important part of my educational journey and I know that everything I’ve learned here will stay with me for the rest of my life. Thank you for this amazing opportunity.


David Stolyarov
CYSO Symphony Orchestra
Class of 2024

Season after season we continue to be blown away by the dedication of our talented student musicians. If you’ve been to a CYSO concert, you know firsthand the inspiring energy our students bring to the stage. Through our world-class musical training, CYSO prepares students to not just become musicians, but also become leaders in their communities, with self-confidence, compassion, and resilience to thrive in every environment. When you make a gift to CYSO, your generosity will have a ripple effect for decades to come. Join us in our commitment to eliminate barriers to high-quality music education by making your gift today!

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