Carolina Youth Symphony

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CYS History

CYS Today

Furman University Affiliation

Conductors and Coaches

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History and Background of CYS

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 52 years, CYS has matured into three orchestra levels made up of students representing dozens of schools in many cities spread over 2 states (see map). The organization has grown into a conducting and administrative staff of 4 (including a Furman University student intern), sectional coaches, 200 member musicians, and a Board of Directors of 20 members. CYS has performed at Carnegie Hall on three different occasions: 2001, 2004, & 2007. During the 2007-2008 Season, the 3 orchestras will combine forces for a total of 6 formal concerts with participation as follows: Repertory (lower orchestra): 3 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.

Each year CYS builds on its impressive list of accomplishments. Orchestra members consistently win chairs in All-State Bands and Orchestras, solo competitions, and scholarships for summer music studies at the South Carolina Governors School, Interlochen, Brevard, Aspen, Tanglewood, and Furman University. Graduates of CYS have won scholarships at universities such as Julliard, Eastman, Cleveland, Curtis, Oberlin, Michigan, Cincinnati, Indiana, and others. Numerous CYS youth attend the South Carolina Governors School. CYS awards yearly orchestra member tuition grants, prizes for winners of our annual Concerto Competition (sponsored by Carolina First Bank), and summer music camp scholarships to its members. In 2006-2007, CYS distributed over $2,400 in Summer Scholarships, in addition to other awards.

These awards and the performance and study opportunities provided by CYS are paid for through the energetic fund-raising efforts of its Board of Directors. Our young musicians and their parents also participate in fundraising events and public service performances. Corporate and individual sponsors provide the support essential to our concert performances. In addition, CYS was awarded a 3-year grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Arts. We continue to seek grants for special projects through other charitable agencies such as the Metropolitan Arts Council of Greenville. We are proud to acknowledge major support from Furman University, in providing rehearsal and performance facilities throughout the Season.

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