Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras 


Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras (SYSO) is the largest youth symphony organization in the U.S. Each year, SYSO addresses the need for high caliber music instruction for more than 1,600 students that reflect the ethnic, racial and economic diversity of the Puget Sound area. SYSO in the Schools provides free instruction on orchestral instruments to address the inequitable access to instrumental music instruction for students in public schools serving low-income and minority communities. SYSO’s summer programs draw students from across the U.S. and Canada.

Mission Statement
Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras provides life changing musical experiences for talented students in the Pacific Northwest, regardless of their financial resources. SYSO students develop their relationship to great music, expand their capacity for self discipline and focus, learn the value of community and teamwork, and continuously acquire new musical skills with professional artist teachers.
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Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras
11065 5th Ave NE Ste A 
(206) 362-2300 

Daniel Petersen 
Executive Director 


Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras Programs

Academic Year Orchestras
Students 7 years and older participate in Symphonette, then progress through Debut and Junior Orchestras, with the most skilled players participating in the Seattle Youth Symphony. Students audition for placement according to their skill level. Repertoire for each orchestra is carefully selected to provide an appropriate degree of challenge for its players. Students have frequent opportunities to perform in public and receive regular coaching, weekly rehearsals, and mentorship by professional musicians in a rigorous program with high expectations.

Summer Programs
Marrowstone Music Festival, a residential festival for musicians 13 to 25, is a 2-week program that immerses talented student musicians in intensive study and rewards audiences with concerts of exceptional quality. It takes place on the campus of WWU in Bellingham. Marrowstone in the City is a 2-week, non-residential festival for students 7 to 14. In 2015 there will be two MITC festivals, one in Redmond and one in Shoreline.

SYSO in the Schools
This nationally-acclaimed program provides free instruction from some of the Puget Sound region's finest musicians to students in 25 Seattle-area public schools. It started as the Endangered Instruments Program and continues to help middle school students learn less commonly studied instruments such as oboe, bassoon, French horn, tuba, trombone, viola and double bass. The program now also includes string instruction for elementary and middle school students in underserved communities

Recent Successes and Current Challenges

In 2008, SYSO received national recognition with a Wallace Excellence Award from The Wallace Foundation. This 4-year, $500,000 grant has funded a major expansion of the SYSO in the Schools program in Seattle - increasing the program's services in schools with high minority populations and providing younger students with weekly group lessons on string instruments. A survey of SYSO alumni and ongoing program evaluations show that the organization’s programs “nurture a lifelong love of classical music” and foster “a sense of accomplishment, concentration, teamwork and collaboration skills, and self-expression.” SYSO is also finding success in a series of exciting collaborations with other performing arts groups in the Seattle area - most notably Pacific Northwest Ballet School, Seattle Symphony Orchestra and the Seattle Opera.

SYSO’s most significant current challenge is to raise the funds required to maintain the services of its expanded SYSO in the Schools program and to enrich the educational offerings and improve the long-term sustainability of the Marrowstone Music Festival.


Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras (SYSO) is the largest youth symphony in the U.S. and develops appreciation for classical music, cultivates musical abilities and provides a path to performance excellence for diverse, talented youth in our region.

Accessibility and Cultural Competence
They were a recipient of a four-year Wallace Foundation Excellence Award to help Seattle Public Schools improve access to quality music education for the district’s elementary, middle and high school students, with a focus on increasing access for African American and Latino students. Called SYSO in the Schools, this program serves schools with very high numbers of students receiving free and reduced school lunch, and currently is offered at no cost to the schools involved. Additionally, they offer substantial financial aid options for their tuition-based programs.

SYSO collaborates with other arts organization in concert productions and performance, including Broadway Bound, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Seattle Choral Company. Additionally, they share resources with other community music organizations and schools, such as sharing music from their extensive music library, training and recruiting tutors for Seattle Music Partners and providing free tickets to organizations serving youth and seniors. Their SYSO in the Schools program relies on a close partnership with Seattle Public Schools.

Proven Success
SYSO has a strong reputation, and is frequently cited as a national model for youth symphonies. SYSO graduates comprise a significant percentage (15%) of Seattle Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra and Seattle Opera Orchestra players, in addition to playing for the Auburn Symphony, Bellevue Philharmonic, Northwest Sinfonia, Orchestra Seattle and many other community orchestra and chamber ensembles.

Grant History with The Seattle Foundation:

Grants Awarded through The Seattle Foundation Grantmaking Program:

9/10/2013 $10,000.00support general operating expenses.
9/10/2011 $10,000.00support general operating expenses.
6/10/2009 $15,000.00support general operating expenses.
12/14/2006 $17,500.00support the purchase of development and accounting software and implement a website redesign.


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