Youth Symphony brings Colorado students music, leadership

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The city’s youth symphony started with 70 musicians and one performance in its first season.

The Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Association, founded in 1980, is one of the largest nonprofit music organizations for children and teens in Colorado Springs.

The symphony has served as an arts outlet for local youth since it started with 70 musicians and a single performance in its first season.

Now, the youth symphony is comprised of eight groups and a beginner strings program with about 500 total musicians — ages 6-18 — who represent more than 60 schools across Colorado Springs, Cañon City, Pueblo, Limon, Castle Rock and Peyton.

The nonprofit’s student numbers have tripled in the past two years, and now the CSYSA performs more than 60 times annually in Colorado, the U.S. and around the world.

This year, the association is participating in the Give! Campaign, as it has for the past decade. The nonprofit is led by Executive Director Keven Stewart, who started with the organization in 2015. He said the Give! Campaign is CSYSA’s largest fundraiser of the year.

“It really is an integral part of us having the ability to keep our costs low for families,” he said. “Other youth symphonies around the country charge double for students to be involved in performing ensembles.”

New furniture and more chairs and instruments will be added if fundraising is successful this year.

This concert season, 40 additional students played on stage and took leadership classes, thanks to fundraisers, grants and corporate sponsorships, which bring in about $200,000 annually. Of that, at least $25,000 goes directly toward financial aid for families each year.

“Our goal is to make sure we never turn away any student that has the desire to play an instrument,” he said.

Twenty of the 40 new students were added to the beginner’s program, called The Mozart String Project, this year, bringing the total number of new musicians in its beginning strings group to 160.

“Some of the best players in the top youth symphony started in our beginning program and just kind of worked their way up. ”

At least 75 percent of the musicians in CSYSA stay in the organization for at least five years, and many stay for more than 10, Stewart said.

This youth symphony is a great option for students who do not have musical  programs at their school, he said.

CSYSA also provides leadership training for its students on and off the stage, Stewart said.

“The youth symphony has provided a learning environment for our city’s youth that fosters character development and gives them a real sense of purpose and direction in their young lives,” Stewart said. “We want them to develop their self-confidence and to develop a strong sense of who they are as an individual. We feel that is a really big part of what we do here at the youth symphony.”

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