Share your L-O-V-E for music education & MSYO this February!

Monday, 9 February 2015 21:33 by mquinn

This February, we are launching a month long giving campaign to raise funds, awareness and promote the talented kids within our Youth Orchestra program. Fresh off of their summer performance tour to New York City and Carnegie Hall, the MSYO has grown to a 100 members strong and represents over 40 public and private schools from the Central Valley!

The group rehearses weekly at CSU Stanislaus and performs three concerts each season on stage at the Gallo Center for the Arts. Special mentoring opportunities are a cornerstone of this program in which our youth musicians receive coaching from symphony musicians and artistic staff and culminates with a side-by-side performance with the professional musicians of MSO.  Just imagine what powerful experiences these must be for aspiring young musicians!

According to a UC Irvine study published in 1997 in Neurological Researchearly music training dramatically enhances children's abstract reasoning skills”. In fact the study shows that “these findings indicate that music uniquely enhances higher brain functions required for mathematics, chess, science and engineering”.

So how can you support music education and show love for our youth orchestra? BECOME A DONOR! Your gift can make a difference and go to support tuition scholarships for underserved youth, future programming, instruments, performance touring opportunities and much more! With so many reasons to give, who would miss this opportunity to show love for the MSYO?

Click here to donate today and show a little L-O-V-E for our local youth symphony musicians!


Youth Orchestra Season Starting off the Season with a Bang!

Monday, 10 November 2014 22:15 by Modesto Symphony Orchestra

It has been exciting few months for members of our youth orchestra. Our talented students formally kicked-off their 38th Season with a Retreat Day earlier this fall.  In which our youth musicians had a special opportunity to work with members of our professional, adult orchestra for concentrated skill development and to practice together. The fun was topped off with a pizza party and cake.

New leadership!

We would also like to extend a warm welcome to the newest member of the Youth Orchestra family Donald C. Grishaw, who took to the podium this season as our new Concert Orchestra Conductor. Girshaw, the Orchestra Director at Pitman High School, has been a playing for the Modesto Symphony as musician for a number of years. He joins Ryan Murray, our Youth Symphony Conductor and Music Director and Ella Webb, our Youth Symphony wind specialist, in inspiring our young musicians to grow their skills and expand their performance experience. To view Mr. Grishaw’s bio, click here>

MSYO Serves the City
A new component of our Youth Symphony this year is our special ensembles program, sponsored by a grant from the Stanislaus Community Foundation. Students are selected to participate based on ability and are given extra instruction to grow their repertoire and musical skill. In return, these talented students give back to the community by performing at elementary schools with our Instrument Petting Zoo, before MSO concerts, at Samaritan Village, and at partner service agencies. It’s a great way to give back to the community and witness the life-changing gift of live musical performance. We are looking forward to the growth and encouragement of these talented students through the year and hope you will follow their progress.

Picnic at the Pops!
A Glowing Success with MSYO!

The 2014 Picnic at the Pops event was all aglow with the festive glow sticks, rings, bracelets and earrings sold by our MSYO students to benefit the MSYO. Proceeds help fund MSYO field trips to area schools where the Youth Orchestra performs for elementary children in after school programs.

MSYO In Concert
The MSYO did an amazing job during their side-by-side performance of “Finlandia” this weekend with the Modesto Symphony Orchestra. Side-by-Side performance opportunities are integral part of our Youth orchestra experience. This concert helped our young musicians understand the inner workings of a professional orchestra up close and personal.

“ I love doing side-by-side concerts!” said MSO Principal Violist Patricia Whaley. Ms. Whaley, pictured in the left, appeared on stage with her MSYO playing partner Sydney.  The two shared a music stand and played with over 100 professional and youth orchestra musicians this past weekend at the Gallo Center for the Arts.
“It’s great fun, and an educational experience for everyone involved…” said Whaley “ I find it refreshing to be surrounded by the genuine enthusiasm of the Youth Orchestra members; it helps me get back in touch with my own love for what I do.”

Playing experiences such as these allows for the growth of mentoring relationships between the students and their partner professional musicians.  “These young musicians may choose other career paths,” said Whaley “but an understanding of the kind of teamwork, trust, and personal responsibility that orchestra playing requires, and it translates well to almost any profession.”

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Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra tours NYC!

Friday, 15 August 2014 20:00 by Alyssa Milano

This summer brought many exciting new adventures for the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra musicians! From June 13th through June 19th, MSYO members had the opportunity to travel to New York City and perform at the prestigious Carnegie Hall with the Napa Youth Symphony.

Twenty five of MSYO's finest, ages 12-18, represented our talented youth community with honors at both an outdoor performance at the Naumberg Bandshell in Central Park and at the Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall for the "Sounds of Summer" performance where they shared the stage with four youth orchestras from around the world. The students participated in a NY Phil Young Composers Workshop where they were able to learn the basics of composition and create their very own piece, they attended a NY Philharmonic rehearsal at the Lincoln Center, boarded a Spirit Cruise with scenic views of Manhattan, attended Broadway's production of "Aladdin" and explored around the city. They visited the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Times Square, The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and many more historic locations. It was a very exciting tour and we can't wait for the next one!

Interested in seeing more photos? Check out our photo album on Facebook!

Instrument Petting Zoo Travels to Beard Elementary

Saturday, 17 May 2014 04:14 by Maureen Quinn

Earlier this month after school students from Beard Elementary had a unique education presentation from our very own Amy Sullivan, Manager of Operations. The afternoon visit was complete with a presentation of our Instrument Petting Zoo for at 100 children and included a performance from select members of our Youth Orchestra.

The Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra played pieces from composers such as Rossini and Beethoven. Their performance also included a the theme from “Star Wars,” during which the conductor Anne Martin used a light saber as her baton.

Our instrument petting zoo is guided opportunity that allows elementary school students to get know, hold and play the instrument of their choice. If you are interested in having the petting zoo perform for your students, click here to visit our website and learn more.

And the 2014 Symphony Guild Scholarship Winner is ...

Saturday, 17 May 2014 00:03 by Alyssa Milano

The Modesto Symphony Orchestra Guild is proud to announce the 2014 winner of the Scholarship Award is Emily McAlister. The Guild Music Scholarship is a $2500 award given out each spring to graduating high school seniors that continue their music education. This coming year, she will attend Brigham Young University to major in nursing and minor in music.

Emily is violinist in the the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra and the winner of the 2013-14 Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra's Concerto Competition. Emily has been playing the violin since age four, starting in the Modesto Suzuki Association with Marta Guevara. At age six, she started piano lessons and has continued with both instruments, including playing the organ regularly in church on Sundays. She has been a member of Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra for seven years and has always enjoyed the opportunity to play with a full symphony. She has participated in the County Honor Orchestra for six years and was concert mistress for three of those years. In 2012, she had the opportunity to attend CODA, a regional orchestra, and the California All-State Orchestra in 2013. Emily has received multiple superior and Command Performance ratings for solos, duets and quartets in CMEA. She is currently the student of Bogdana Mindov and a senior at Pitman High School, where she excels as an honor student. After school, Emily has been giving her own violin and piano lessons to younger musicians as well. Congratulations Emily and we wish you the best at Brigham Young University!


Class is in Session!

Friday, 11 April 2014 17:46 by Maureen Quinn

It was not a typical Monday morning for students in Professor Stuart Simms conducting class at CSU Stanislaus School of Music. Amongst the fresh faced group of future music professionals in attendance was an all too familiar face in the Modesto classical music scene, our very own Maestro David Lockington! As part of the Symphony’s collaborative education outreach programs, Maestro Lockington facilitated a conducting clinic for over 40 students from the University’s Music Department.

Students in attendance had the opportunity to conduct a University chamber ensemble and receive feedback on their conducting technique and podium presence. “A professional conducting clinic is a very rare opportunity for undergraduate music students, especially one with a clinician of this caliber” said Simms. “Our students grew a great deal both in preparation for this event, and because of David’s outstanding feedback and coaching.”

“Working with Maestro Lockington is an amazing experience” said CSU student Brian Lewsadder. “He was able to identify and communicate ways that I could improve my conducting in a positive, efficient manner. David’s knowledge and expertise in the field allows him to work with and mentor conductors ranging from the first year conducting student to seasoned professionals.”

Over the past thirty-five years, David Lockington has developed an impressive conducting career in the United States. A native of Great Britain, he has served as the Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra since January 1999 and has held the same position with the Modesto Symphony since May 2007.

This conducting clinic is one of the many educational outreach programs that the Modesto Symphony offers to music students of all ages and ability levels. If you are interested in learning about more music education opportunities please contact Amy Sullivan, Manager of Operations at

Savor Spaghetti & Support our Youth Musicians in March!

Thursday, 6 March 2014 01:17 by Maureen Quinn

If you’re looking for a great reason to indulge in wine, pasta and fantastic music look no further! On Saturday, March 29, 2014 the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra presents Strings: Spaghetti & Symphony. This will be a wonderful night of amazing appetizers, a delicious spaghetti dinner, raffle and of course, world class music.

This annual fundraising event for the members of the Youth Orchestra kicks off at 5:30 p.m. at the Riverbank Community Center with anti-pasti and wine accompanied by performances from our youth musicians. Dinner, which includes spaghetti, salad and artisanal bread is served by our youth symphony members and strolling violinists thread through tables serenading attendees. The evening concludes with a tantalizing dessert auction and a chance to nab some fantastic items during our raffle and silent auctions.

Proceeds from this event will go directly to the youth and program activities for the Modesty Symphony Youth Orchestra. Supporting the MSYO is one of the direct ways to benefit the student musicians in our community.

Tickets for Strings: Spaghetti and Symphony are $35 and include dinner and the first glass of wine. Additional wine and other beverages will be available for purchase. For more information or to buy tickets, call Alyssa Milano at the Symphony Office at 209.523.4156 x108 or by email at

Photos from Strings: Spaghetti & Symphony 2013



* Event photographs by Ms. Moody Photos


Show a little L-O-V-E for the Youth Orchestra

Tuesday, 4 February 2014 18:03 by Maureen Quinn

How do 50,000 young people in the US learn the art of team work, self discipline and individual expression -  by playing in a youth orchestra! According to a report published by the League of American Orchestras in 2013, there are only 500 youth orchestras across America. The statistics are staggering, but did you know that Modesto is one of those lucky places in the country to have a youth orchestra of their very own? For over 37 seasons the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra has shared the love of classical music by serving nearly 100 member musicians and their families annually from over forty public and private schools in the Central Valley.

This February the Modesto Symphony is launching a giving campaign to raise funds, awareness and love for our Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra. Donations will help support tuition scholarships for underserved youth, future programming, instruments, performance touring opportunities  and much more! With so many reason to give, who would miss this opportunity to show love for the MSYO? Click here to donate today and show a little L-O-V-E for our local youth symphony musicians before March 25th!

MSYO members are enjoying their summers!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013 18:28 by Alyssa Milano

Member: Frankie Flood

Instrument: Trumpet
Years of Study: 8
Years in MSYO: 3
Age: 17

Attending any summer music camps?: Yes, the Brubeck Jazz Institute (June 17-22) and Senior Music Camp (July 14-20)
Favorite summer activity: I like to spend time with friends and play music - Jam sessions or participating in MoBand
Family trips this summer: Stanislaus County Fair in July
Best MSYO memory from this past year: I love every moment I spend with the MSYO but, my best memory may be from the beginning of the year, when everyone joined in a circle and we all played a game to get to know each other’s names.
Auditioning for next year?: Yes, I have auditioned for the next season and can’t wait! This will be my third year with the Symphony Orchestra. I even convinced a friend of mine to audition as well.

Member: Sabina Villalobos

Instrument: Violin
Years of Study: 11
Years in MSYO: 4
Age: 14

Attending any summer music camps?: No, not this year.
Favorite summer activity: Hanging out with friends, reading, keeping up with current events, baking and learning the music to musicals. 
Family trips this summer: We’re going to Panama on July 1st. We will be celebrating my 15th birthday as well as my mother’s.
Best MSYO memory from this past year: Probably the first time we had seating auditions. I was really nervous but was trying to look cool and not stress out. I went in and did my audition,  missing the shift by a smidge which made me really upset. Ms. Martin noticed I was down and pulled me over giving me a very big hug and told her story about the time her audition didn’t   do so well. I can always count on Ms. Martin to make me happy.
Auditioning for next year?: Yes, I will be auditioning for the upcoming season.

Member: Faith Tsai

Instrument: Violin
Years of Study: 11
Years in MSYO: 5
Age: 16 

Attending any summer music camps? No, not this year.
Favorite summer activity: Catching up on sleep is my favorite, but I’m obligated to also golf, swim and finish mounds of summer homework.
Family trips this summer: Paris, France and then San Diego, California.
Best MSYO memory from this past year: Ming Luke’s final concert; emotions were high and I felt that his exit was monumental.
Auditioning for next year?: Yes I have.

Member: Amanda Larson

Instrument: Cello
Years of Study: 6
Years in MSYO: 4
Age: 16

Attending any summer music camps? Yes, I participated in the local CSU Stanislaus music camp, which took place from Sunday the 16th through the 22nd of June. 
Favorite summer activity: I enjoy drawing and playing video games.
Family trips this summer: I’m not sure at the moment.
Auditioning for next year?: Yes, I will be auditioning for this next season.


*Pictures listed from above (left to right): Sabina Villalobos, Frankie Flood, Faith Tsai & Amanda Larson

Meet the 2013 MSYO Concerto Competition Winners!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013 22:11 by Alyssa Milano

Early this month, we caught up with the 2013 MSYO Concerto Competition winners, Jonathan Altman & Yunah Kim to get their perspectives on the audition process for the competition. Jonathan Altman, 12 year old violinist from Ustach Middle School, won the Community Division title and Yunah Kim, 14 year old violinist from Modesto High School, won the MSYO Division title. Congratulations to the two of you from the Modesto Symphony Orchestra!

Jonathan Altman: 

Q: Where did you audition? What piece did you play for the audition? A: We auditioned at the Stanislaus State University during the live audition round. This year I played the first movement of the Concerto No. 1 in G minor by Max Bruch. 

Q: Have you auditioned in the past? A: Last year I tried out as an MSYO member, but this year I am playing with YPSO (Young People's Symphony Orchestra of Berkeley), so I applied as a community member. 

Q: What are your plans for the future (i.e. college etc)? A: I want to study music in college. I don't know where I will go yet, or if I will study music only or double major. At this point, I don't even know where I will go for high school. I need time to work on my music so I may not got to regular high school. 

Q: Do you think this process will impact how you will audition in the future? What did you learn from it? A: Evert audition I do makes me a little smarter about the process. Everybody gets nervous with auditions, but it gets better the more you do it. Live auditions are always the hardest, especially when you're trying for a new position or group. Winning this concerto competition is really cool because it is my first opportunity to play with a live orchestra. Usually kids my age only get to play with piano accompaniment or in small groups, so I feel lucky to be able to do this. 

Q: Do you play other instruments other than violin? A: Although my primary instrument is violin, I also love playing French horn and trombone in my school bands, and I also sometimes play viola in chamber groups. I love classical music, but I also really enjoy playing folk music such as Irish and Scottish fiddle, American Old Time music, Bluegrass and Klezmer. 

Yunah Kim: 

Q: Where did you audition? What piece did you play for the audition? A: I auditioned for the Concerto Competition at Snyder Hall and played the Concerto in A Minor by Accolay. I am one of two students that auditioned.

 Q: Have you auditioned in the past? A: I had watched previous students audition and perform the competition, so I decided to try out for the first time, with hopes of getting some constructive input, never actually thinking I would make the cut.

 Q: What are your plans for the future (i.e. college etc)? A: After I graduate from Modesto High School in 2016, I hopefully will go on to major in medicine and minor in music.

 Q: Do you think this process will impact how you will audition in the future? What did you learn from it? A: I know that this process will impact my future musical career because I can become a stronger performer and improve my skills. I’m so grateful to MSYO for giving me this amazing opportunity to further my musical abilities and learn from this unique experience.