Since 1966, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) has been providing music instruction to Wisconsin students, offering some of the top youth symphony orchestra programs to thousands, many of whom go on to pursue careers as professional musicians or music educators. 


At the June 23 Waunakee Rotary meeting, WYSO executive director Bridget Fraser with conductor and educator Kyle Knox, spoke about WYSO and its upcoming building campaign. 

More than 4,000 alumni have gone on to pursue careers in music, and even those who have pursued other avenues have taken away the lessons learned at WYSO such as dedication, commitment and passion for what they love. 

Kyle spoke of the importance of the symphony orchestras, noting though students are playing compositions written centuries ago, they’re able to relate to the music. It is a universal language and is timeless, he said, adding art and music education leave an imprint on people’s lives. 

He called the lessons learned transformative. 

WYSO has five orchestras –  three full orchestras and two for strings only. It also offers a Music Makers program to support music education for younger people who want to learn instrumental music. 

Students typically take lessons and then audition for the symphony orchestras, but the Music Makers program is noncompetitive. Most families pay very little for the instruction, and 75% of the families qualify for their school district’s free and reduced lunch program.

Waunakee philanthropist Diane Ballweg is chair of the capital campaign for the new WYSO building planned on E. Washington Avenue. Since its inception, WYSO has had instruction in the basement of the UW-Madison Humanities building, and currently also rehearses at Madison Country Day School.

The new building will be a half a block from the new MYArts Center, and with the two buildings there, an arts corridor is forming on Madison’s east side. 

Diane reminded the Rotarians that if they’re looking to downsize and get rid of a piano, WYSO will accept it. Several pianos are needed for the new building. 

Diane has traveled with the youth orchestras abroad and said they are the best ambassadors we have. 

Todd Schmidt and his daughter Sydney talked about their experience with WYSO. Now a student at UW-Madison, Sydney said she loved performing with WYSO and had made lifelong friends. She continues to play with the UW-Madison string orchestra. 



Other News:

-The steak fry is Wednesday at Drumlin Ridge. Visit the Waunakee Rotary website if you’d like to sign up. 

-Phil Willems reminded folks about the senior picnic on July 13. Somewhere, the club has some large banners. If you’ve got one of them, let him know. 


Guests: Speakers.


Visiting Rotarians: None. 


Birthdays: July 4, Sean Wayne; July 4, Todd Schmidt; July 6, Dean Grosskopf.


Anniversaries: None.


Greeters: June 30, Drew Lawrence and David May; July 7, Kevin McDaniel and Mark McFarland; July 14, Nick Mischler and Sorina Neamtu; July 21, Linda Olson and Danny Paul; July 28, Ken Pesik and Nick Petrulis.