Our History

CYS had its beginnings in 1955 when Greenville music-lover Miss Rita May Baker founded what she called “The Little Symphony,” a group of young musicians supported by the Crescent Music Club and the Greenville Symphony Orchestra.

The group expanded each year both in numbers and performances, until in 1976 the Crescent Youth Symphony became Carolina Youth Symphony, an independent, non-profit regional youth orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Robert Chesebro, Daniel Professor of Music at Furman University, and Principal Clarinetist for the Greenville Symphony.

In the past 60 years, CYS has matured into three orchestra levels made up of students representing dozens of schools in many cities spread over 2 states. The organization has grown into a conducting and administrative staff of 4 (including 3 Furman University student interns), sectional coaches, 200 member musicians, and a Board of Directors of 20 members.

CYS has performed at Carnegie Hall on five different occasions: 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013. During the 2015-2016 Season, the 3 orchestras will combine forces for a total of 5 formal concerts with participation as follows: Repertory (lower orchestra): 4 performances; Concert (middle): 5 performances; Symphony (upper): 5 performances.

The CYS is ably led by Dr. Les Hicken, Music Director and Senior Conductor, Mr. Jim Kilgus, Conductor Concert Orchestra, and Ms. Ginger Greer, Conductor Repertory Orchestra.