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Memphis Youth Symphony Program Inspires Musical Leaders of Tomorrow

Since 1966, the Memphis Youth Symphony Program has been providing quality music education and performance opportunities that inspire the young musical leaders of tomorrow.

Annually, the Memphis Youth Symphony Program (MYSP) engages 150+ students who range in age from 7–19, and represent more than 50 community and regional schools. This organization gives young people musical and performing opportunities that many are unable to receive in school or at home. From September to May a diverse group of students from different socio-economic backgrounds come together on a weekly basis to play music and create lasting friendships.

Students from across the Mid-South audition to join the MYSP each spring. Need-based financial aid is available for all families and in the 2019-2020 season, no student was turned away due to the inability to pay.  The MYSP is currently made up of three ensembles, though the Board of Directors is hoping to add additional programming in the 20-21 season. This is one of the many exciting changes that the MYSP Board of Directors is beginning to discuss as they start a strategic planning progress that will likely be completed in the spring of 2020.

Unlike many nonprofit boards, the MYSP Board of Directors is a diverse group comprised of individuals from various backgrounds and professions who represent a wide range of Memphis’ demographics. The board is working alongside MYSP’s small staff to create clarity and meaningful changes such as increasing diversity among its students and giving students a voice into how the program is run. “I am most proud of the addition of the MYSP Student Advisory Council, which gives students an opportunity to take a leadership role in the organization, volunteer, and make suggestions to the Board of Directors,” Board Chair, Brittany Cooper-d’Orsay explained.

While student participation has increased this year, the MYSP is unable to survive off of student tuition fees alone. According to Cooper-d’Orsay, “The success of our youth programming relies on community support and from individual donors. We have been ramping up our fundraising efforts over the last couple of years, but it has been challenging to fundraise as many donors believe the MYSP is financially supported by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra (MSO).” The Memphis Youth Symphony Program was founded under the umbrella of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, but it separated and became an independent nonprofit in 2006 in order to allow for an increase in grant applications and fundraising efforts. The organizations partner frequently but are no longer financially linked. 

The MYSP is gearing up for their biggest fundraiser of the year and would like to invite the Memphis community to the second annual Barrie Cooper and Friends Benefit Concert on Sunday, November 3rd at 1:30 p.m. at The Buckman Performing Arts Center. The event will begin with a silent auction, appetizers, and pre-show chamber music performed by MYSP students and alumni. The recital will be performed by MSO concertmaster Barrie Cooper, who is joined by other MSO musicians and MYSP staff, alums, board members, advisory council members, and parents. All proceeds will directly support youth programming. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased here

 Can’t make it to the event?

A gift of any amount is greatly appreciated. You may donate online at or by mailing a check to our office at 66 S. Cooper St., Suite 509, Memphis, TN 38104.




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