Minnesota Youth Symphonies

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Minnesota Youth Symphonies
Origin Twin Cities, Minnesota, USA
Genres Classical
Occupations Youth Orchestra
Years active 1972-present
Website http://www.mnyouthsymphonies.org/
Members Symphony Conductor
Manny Laureano
Repertory Conductor
Claudette Laureano
Philharmonic Conductor
Jim Bartsch
String Conductor
Patricia Kelly
Minnesota Youth Symphonies logo

Minnesota Youth Symphonies, commonly referred to as MYS, was founded in 1972 by Ralph Winkler and Ed Forner. The program has four orchestras composed of elementary through high school aged musicians. Participation is based on an audition in which the prospective student must perform an appropriate solo, orchestral excerpt, major and minor scales, and sightread. Unlike many other programs, MYS places each student into an orchestra based entirely on his or her skill level, rather than age. The String Orchestra, composed only of stringed instruments, is conducted by Pat Kelly, and is geared for string students at the intermediate level. The Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Minnesota Orchestra Education Director Jim Bartsch, is a full orchestra for music students at the advanced-intermediate level. The Repertory Orchestra, conducted by MYS Co-Artistic Director Claudette Laureano, is offered for advanced students. The highest-level orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra, is conducted by MYS Co-Artistic Director Manny Laureano, and is a collegiate-level full orchestra. The orchestras perform three times annually at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis for an aggregate yearly audience of more than 5,000 patrons.

Student musicians throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin audition annually for a position in one of the four orchestras, which meet most Saturday mornings for two to three-hour rehearsals from mid-September to early May. MYS also hosts an annual summer program in July, comprising a composition class, an advanced beginner string orchestra group with Pat Kelly, and a conductor's workshop with Manny Laureano.

MYS has been under the artistic direction of Manny Laureano, Principal Trumpet of the Minnesota Orchestra, and his wife, Claudette Laureano, Director of the Breck School's String Program, since 1988. Previous music/artistic directors have included Ralph Winkler, Ed Forner (former Assistant Conductor with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Professor of Music at Macalester College), William McGlaughlin, Dr. Clyn D. Barrus and David Tuburgen. Under Winkler and Forner's initial leadership, MYS grew from a single orchestra to 3 ensembles ranging from beginning students to college-level musicians. Under Dr. Barrus' leadership, MYS grew to four orchestras and over 300 students. Under the Laureano's leadership, MYS has become known nationally as one of the nation's leading youth symphony organizations, consisting of four orchestras, a summer program and community outreach programs serving over 600 students.

Several alumni of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies program hold positions with professional orchestras such as the Cleveland Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.[1]


In 1972 the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Society ended its sponsorship of the St. Paul Youth Orchestra. Many of the youth orchestra musicians and their parents were determined to continue the program. They persuaded its music director, Ralph Winkler, to establish a new youth orchestra, the Minnesota Youth Symphony. MYS was established as a place for serious young musicians to learn and be challenged.

The students’ hard work earned them an invitation in 1973 to perform in Romania, making MYS the first American youth orchestra to tour in a communist country. In 1992, the MYS Symphony Orchestra became the first orchestra to ever perform in the Super Bowl’s half-time show when Super Bowl XXVI was played at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. MYS worked with one of the most distinguished film composers of the 20th century when Elmer Bernstein guest-conducted “The Magnificent Seven” with the MYS Philharmonic Orchestra in 1997. MYS has collaborated with many noted guest artists, conductors and performing groups including Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vanska, Butch Thompson, Charles Lazarus, Jorja Fleezanis, Bel Canto Chorus, St. Paul City Ballet, Minnesota Boys Choir, Ignacio "Nachito" Herrera, and the T.C. Swing Dancers.

The 2007-2008 season was particularly notable, as it marked the 35th Anniversary of MYS as well as the 20th Anniversary of Co-Artistic Directors Claudette and Manny Laureano. In honor of these events, each of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies’ four orchestras premiered original works by Minnesotan composers. Full orchestral pieces were commissioned from composers Stephen Paulus, Shelley Hanson and MYS alumnus Edward (Teddy) Niedermaier. To select the fourth work, MYS held a composition competition open to MYS students and alumni under the age of 21. Aaron Hirsch, of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota won this contest with his composition for string orchestra.


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