Minnesota Sinfonia

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Minnesota Sinfonia is a professional non-profit orchestra in Minnesota. The Sinfonia plays concerts for over 25,000 people each year, and is the only professional orchestra of its kind, offering all concerts free of charge, welcoming children to every performance, and dedicating over half its services to inner-city schools. Founded in 1989 by Artistic Director Jay Fishman, the Minnesota Sinfonia is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization supported by corporate, foundation and individual contributors.


Music in the schools[edit]

Music in the Schools (MIS)[1] is the Sinfonia’s inner-city education program. Every year, the orchestra works with up to 12,000 elementary students and helps them learn core subjects in exciting new ways–through music! Music in the School[2] s is designed specifically for public elementary students of Minneapolis and St. Paul’s diverse population with limited in-school arts opportunities. MIS uses classical music to excite students about math, history, science, social studies and literature, while providing a much-needed part of their arts education.

Each MIS program starts with a three-month curriculum, co-developed by the Sinfonia and local teachers. The curriculum combines classical music excerpts with academic concepts drawn from Minnesota state education standards, and focuses on a different subject each year.

Past programs include History as Seen Through Music, which used Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait to introduce President Abraham Lincoln, his speeches and his role in the Civil War. The Magical Mysteries of Math & Music used Joseph Haydn’s “Surprise” Symphony and other well-known classical works to help explain a variety of mathematical concepts. The 2009-2010 program, Music From Other Lands, presented classical music derived from folk songs.

The culmination of each Music in the Schools program is ‘Sinfona Day’ — a visit from the entire Minnesota Sinfonia to each participating school. As part of the festivities, classrooms host visits from orchestra musicians, who interact with the students and share their own stories and experience.

Young Artist Competition[edit]

The Young Artist Competition[3] is an annual competition for musicians up to age 19. Held every spring, the contest attracts residents of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin, who compete in a friendly environment. Both the junior and senior division winners are awarded solo appearances with the Sinfonia, and the senior division winner also receives the Claire Givens Violins $500 cash prize. The competition is held at the University of St. Thomas campus in St. Paul.

Youth Outreach Week[edit]

25 young musicians experience a “week in the life” of a professional musician. Students participate in a week of intensive orchestra rehearsals, culminating in a joint concert with the Minnesota Sinfonia.

Junior Composers Competition[edit]

Junior Composers and alumni up to age 19, compose celebratory, high-spirited works that will be part of the Sinfonia’s Young Artists Week, culminating in a performance of the winning entry at the orchestra’s Summer Concert Series.

Concert Offerings[edit]

Winter Concert Series[edit]

Classical programs performed in Twin Cities neighborhood venues. These concerts feature guest soloists from around the world, orchestral repertoire and new works by American composers.

Summer Concert Series[edit]

Classical repertoire and award-winning guest soloists. Concerts take place in outdoor settings in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Holiday and Summer Pops Concerts[edit]

Performed throughout the seven county metro area, these programs contain music from movies, Broadway, favorite waltzes

Music and Arts Festivals[edit]

Community festivals provided to under-served Minnesota communities. The festivals include neighborhood children performing with the Minnesota Sinfonia, local music groups and local artist displays as well many other activities.

Greater Minnesota Touring[edit]

The Minnesota Sinfonia brings educational and concert programs designed especially for communities that have limited access to the arts to out-state Minnesota.


In the 1980s, conductor Jay Fishman envisioned a professional, top-quality orchestra that would dedicate its services to the underserved and low-income residents of Minnesota. In 1989, he created the Minnesota Sinfonia, a professional chamber orchestra to serve families, children, inner-city youth, seniors, and those with limited incomes.

Early on, the Sinfonia developed policies of free admission and children welcome to all performances. The Sinfonia was the first, and is still the only professional orchestra in the state to have such policies.

As one of three professional orchestras in the Twin Cities, the Sinfonia is the only one to offer all concerts free of admission charges, to perform in accessible neighborhood locations year-round and to welcome children to every performance. The Sinfonia is dedicated to community service and education. Each year, the Sinfonia performs more free, in-school concerts than any professional orchestra in the state, allocating over 30 percent of its budget and half its concerts to educational programs. Our guiding values are quality, accessibility and education.

Artistic Director[edit]

Jay Fishman has been the artistic and executive director of the Minnesota Sinfonia since its inception in 1989. Under his leadership, the Sinfonia inaugurated its polices of free admission and welcoming children to all concerts, and created Music in the Schools, the orchestra’s education program for inner-city elementary students.

Jay earned a bachelor of science in music education and bachelor of arts in music composition from the University of Minnesota in 1969. In 1974, he earned a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from the Indiana University School of Music. Also in 1974, he was a finalist in the Fulbright-Hayes Conducting Fellowship. From 1974 to 1976, Jay served as music director and conductor for the Louisville Chamber Orchestra. He then traveled to London, where he worked with Sir Neville Mariner of the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields Chamber Orchestra. While in London, he also recorded for BBC Radio.

In 1978, Jay Fishman returned to the United States and for 11 years served as the music director of the Minneapolis Chamber Symphony (MCS), which he founded. Under his leadership, the MCS received local, regional and national accolades, including the Award for Excellence from the McKnight Foundation and ongoing support from the National Endowment for the Arts.[4]

In 1989, Jay founded the Minnesota Sinfonia and took on the role of executive and artistic director. To date, he has conducted over 1,300 performances, and introduced classical music to 150,000 inner-city elementary students. In 2008, he led a symposium on use of the professional orchestra in music education for the Arts Midwest Regional Conference, and spoke on the same subject to the Association of Wisconsin Orchestras in May 2010.

Board of directors[edit]


Chairperson Mary Weber

Vice Chairperson

Treasurer David Haynes

Secretary Grant Fairbairn

Executive List[edit]

Artistic/Executive Director - Jay Fishman

Manager - Raphael Fishman

Marketing & Development - Emily Matejcek


The Minnesota Sinfonia has played at the following venues in the twin cities as well as toured outstate Minnesota:

Winter: The Basilica of Saint Mary, Metropolitan State University, The University of Minnesota, Temple Israel, Saint Olaf Catholic Church, First Covenant Church, Saint Mary's Cathedral.

Summer: Como Park, Lake Harriet Bandshell, Lake Phalen Regional Park, Caponi Art Park, Minnesota Zoo, Coon Rapids Regional Dam Park, Roseville Central Park, Camp Courage, John A. Johnson Elementary School, Farnsworth Aerospace Elementary School, Farwell Park, North Commons Park.


  1. ^ "Sinfonia Brings Music Education to Inner-City Schools" (Press release). Minnesota Sinfonia. 28 October 2010. 
  2. ^ Marianne Combs (3 May 2010). "Making Classical Music Come Alive for Kids". MPR News. 
  3. ^ Katie Mintz (12 July 2010). "Edina Youth to Solo with Sinfonia". MN Sun. 
  4. ^ Gail Brown (27 April 2010). "Minnesota Sinfonia Awarded NEA Grant". KSTP. 

External links[edit]