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Midwest Young Artists Conservatory

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Music, Symphony Orchestras

Mission: "To Build a Home with the Power of Music to Enrich the Lives of our Students and Community"

Results: MYA has gone from a single orchestra with 50 members and rented spaces in 1993, to an organization that now serves over 1,000 young people annually with a permanent rehearsal space in Highwood, Illinois that houses 9 orchestras, 65+ chamber ensembles, dozens of Jazz ensembles including combos and Big Bands, a wind symphony, choral ensembles, early childhood education classes, music theory & history classes, festivals, summer camps, and national concerto & chamber competitions.

Target demographics: children and young adults learn life skills through performance in music ensembles

Direct beneficiaries per year: almost 1,000 students

Geographic areas served: 78 Communities in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana

Programs: Orchestra, Jazz Combos & Ensembles, Big Band, Chamber Ensembles, Early Childhood Music & Movement, Choral Ensembles and Music Theory classes.

Community Stories

126 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Board Member

Rating: 5

My son has had the privilege of participating in the music programs at MYA for 5 years. Through the years, he has risen through three levels of orchestras into the Symphony Orchestra, and he participates in the outstanding Intensive Chamber Music Program. He has played in the Honors Wind Symphony, and has had the opportunity to perform in the Walgreen's Concerto Competition, and the Discover Chamber Music Competition. Although he's only in the ninth grade, he has already performed in every major music venue in the Chicago area: Symphony Center, Lyric Opera House, Harris Theater, Ravinia's Bennett-Gordon Hall, Northwestern's Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, and Waukegan's Genesee Theater. These have all been incredible experiences for him. The range of opportunities that MYA offers students of every age and level in classical, jazz, choral and chamber music is phenomenal. But that's not what makes MYA so special.
What makes MYA truly special lies within: it is the amazing ensemble directors, faculty and staff that have created the warm and nurturing environment at MYA, where each student is encouraged to strive to be the best musician and citizen that they can be. The caliber of the faculty is second to none, but it is their passion for music and their unending dedication to the growth and success of their students that stands out. They inspire students to work hard. They promote camaraderie over competitiveness. Students of all ages, from all edges of the Chicago-land area come together each week to make music, but in the process, they gain so much more. Work ethic, teamwork, discipline, confidence, self-esteem, community and life-long friendships are what I see being developed each week. Many students from MYA go on to attend the best music conservatories in the country. Some students continue on to top universities and colleges in order to pursue other professions. The tools students gain at MYA will help them be successful in anything they choose to do in life. But what will they remember about MYA for the rest of their lives? The warm fire, the homemade goodies, the unending support of their directors and coaches, the sense of community, and the incredible joy, and excitement of having made beautiful music together.

Review from Guidestar

Board Member

Rating: 5

MYA aroused in my son a passion for music that will last a lifetime. Thanks to Director Allan Dennis’ unwavering commitment to maintaining a competitive yet nurturing atmosphere, MYA delivers a top-notch music ensemble program that fosters community outreach and camaraderie among its students. MYA has changed my son's life— no more ACDC; hello Bach and and Basie!

Review from Guidestar

Client Served

Rating: 5

This is the 5th year of our daughter participating in the vocal groups within Midwest Young Artists. We have seen our daughter grow musically through the years, both through experiences of places that she has performed, the musicians that she has met from areas spanning out across the greater Chicago-land area, and the knowledge of music theory that has been provided through special classes. The contacts that she has made within the organization have been tremendous, including the directors that she has been exposed to. She has learned about recording sessions, performed within the United Nations chambers, Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, as well as being exposed to the wonderful theatres of Chicago - at Northwestern University, Harris Theatre in Millenium Park, Lyric Opera and Symphony Hall. We think that someday she will look back in awe at what she was able to be a part of at such an early age. Many thanks to all that are involved in this tremendous organization!

Review from Guidestar

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am an alum, employee, donor, and teacher at Midwest Young Artists (MYA). This organization is a huge part of my life! I cannot imagine being part of something better then MYA. As a student, MYA provided such amazing experiences and challenges for me as a young violinist. I acted as co-concert master in our 10 year anniversary concert, I toured Europe, I competed in competitions, and I made lifelong friends. As an employee, I am always faced with new and exciting challenges and responsibilities that are always rewarding when I see my efforts evolve. Most recently, a benefit concert for the Ronald McDonald House Charities at Harris Theater. As a teacher, I watch my students grow and become great little musicians in such a nurturing atmosphere. It is truly a rewarding experience!!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

For six years, MYA provided the musical, social, and even spiritual center for our family. Saturday at MYA was the highlight of our week. When my eighth grade daughter participated in two chamber groups, Concert and Symphony Orchestras, she rehearsed from 8 am to 3 pm straight every Saturday. She grew immensely as a musician and gained in confidence and stamina. Meanwhile, my much younger daughter and I hung out in the lobby, making friends and enjoying the warm, positive, family atmosphere of the place. The little one grew up surrounded by her sister's music--when she was a toddler, she'd hum various themes from "Scheherazade" while playing with her toys. At age eight, she is now a promising musician herself. Even my older son, who has high-functioning autism, participated by taping Sunday soirees and converting the tapes to DVDs as part of his school's work-study program. In addition to all the opportunities it provides, the greatness of MYA lies in the inspirational and visionary people who founded and direct this wonderful organization. It is astounding that Dr. and Mrs. Dennis could have built such a rich and multifaceted institution in a such a short period of time. They are tireless individuals, dedicated to their work. After one winter concert, I clapped and cheered as Dr. Dennis and his orchestra, clad in tuxedos and fancy dresses, took their triumphant bows, then at midnight, I watched Dr. D and a handful of those same kids--now dressed in their dungarees-- unload music stands and equipment off the truck at MYA in the bitter cold. The Zen proverb, "After enlightenment, the laundry," certainly applied. MYA will remain a part of our lives through the alumni concerts and through keeping in touch with those friends we met in the lobby, whose children are now off at college or conservatory, taking with them the skills, experiences, and memories they got from those wonderful Saturdays at the Fort.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is my son's 5th year at MYA. Every year, the Saturday mornings/afternoons he spends there are one of the highlights of the week. He has been part of the orchestra program, music theory, composition, and chamber music. The orchestra directors display a striking combination of empathy, professionalism, high expectations, love of music, humor and genuine interest in the students they work with, as people, not just musicians. It is a place for everyone to learn and grow and nurture their love of, and talent for, music. Hard work and responsibility to the group are emphasized, but each child is recognized as an individual. All staff are welcoming and inclusive, and there are many great ways for parents to get involved and be part of the MYA family. The orchestra members are very fortunate to get the opportunity to perform in extraordinary venues, such as Ravinia's Gordon Bennett Hall, Pick-Staiger Auditorium at Northwestern, and the Harris Theatre. All this, and master classes, great chamber music coaches, concessions where the home bakers can shine, a roaring fire on cold days, and a beautiful setting for a walk or run while your student is rehearsing! We love MYA.

Review from Guidestar

Client Served

Rating: 5

MYA is a wonderful organization that I was proud to be a part of.

Review from Guidestar

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was a student at MYA from eighth grade until the end of my senior year. I participated was a member of a three jazz bands, a member of the top symphony orchestra, played in saxophone quartet for three years, and played in the MYA Eighth Blackbird ensemble. Midwest Young Artists helped me to become a better musician than I could otherwise have become. The atmosphere there was always friendly, as well as supportive. Furthermore, I was able to grow with musicians that I would most likely have never come into contact with if not for MYA. In the ensembles, I was able to play with musicians who were all serious about music, which is something I could never have found in high school. MYA also taught me important life lessons. When one participates in a serious ensemble like any of the ones at MYA, you learn a serious sense of commitment and dedication. You learn to be always be early (if possible), and you learn to always come as prepared as possible. These are invaluable lessons that most people don't learn until college. MYA has helped me to become a better me than I otherwise could have.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My three children have participated in Midwest Young Artists in its excellent orchestral and chamber programs. The nurturing atmosphere at MYA is truly remarkable. In my experience, other youth music organizations often bring out the worst aspects of musical competition in young people. MYA has provided a magical oasis for each of them to freely express their love of music and musical performance with peers who share those same passions. They have all developed strong friendships and memories at MYA. Dr. Dennis and the other faculty members inspire all of the young musicians to do their very best while minimizing feelings of internal competition, resulting in a safe, warm place for these young people to grow musically and to grow as young adults. Bravo!

Review from Guidestar

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have had the pleasure of serving as board president for 5 years at Midwest Young Artists. Not only does MYA have tireless people that teach music, but as just as importantly, they foster an environment where young people learn about life. Support of others, teamwork, and community service are among the life lessons learned. Experience to MYA does not guarantee a life in music. It does guarantee that a child will know that through hard work, great things can happen. MYA has travelled extensively to Germany, Spain, Portugal, China and South Korea, trips which were met by students and foreigners alike with an awe of music. MYA's future is bright. I look forward to being involved on this ride.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My three children have been a part of the MYA family for 9 musically and socially fulfilling years. When my oldest daughter was 12 she discovered MYA and gradually got the whole family involved with its mission. My daughter auditioned on the oboe and the violin. Afterwards she cried. She was convinced she did terrible. When the letter came with the good news that she was accepted into two different orchestra she was thrilled! Her Saturdays, most kids' day off of school, began at 8:00 a.m. with a chamber group followed by a short break and then 5 hours of orchestra rehearsals. Sounds, grueling. Not for kids who love music. My daughter found a home at MYA where there were kids, just like her, who chose to spend their weekend surrounded by music. She grew as a musician under the guidance of talented orchestra directors who understood how to bring out the best in every member of the orchestra, not only as musicians, but as caring and responsible members of the bigger MYA family. The opportunities my daughter had to perform in world renown venues in Chicago, Spain, Portugal, China and Korea will live with her forever. The 12 year old who decided to spend her weekends playing music at MYA is now 21 years old and finishing up her music education degree at the University of Illinois. She is determined to start a string program for young children in an under served area of the world. Sounds, idealistic, but I see her determination and I think she will truly be able to reach her goal.

Our family continues to be deeply involved with MYA. Our younger two children are now filling their weekends with music, as well. They play in chamber groups, orchestras and sing. How many 11 year olds can brag that they sang with the prestigious Chicago Symphony Orchestra? Well, my two 11 year olds did just that as members of MYA's Voices Rising Children's Choir. They loved being a part of the Chicago Symphony's Welcome Yule performances at Chicago Symphony Center during the month of December. Pretty cool, huh!? Play cello on stage at the Chicago Opera House? Yep, did that, too. Sing at Carnegie Hall? Yes, last spring. If your children, like mine, also have a love for music, they will find a warm, nurturing home in the MYA family. It's also a fun place to hang out. Just ask the MYA kids! Our lives have truly been enriched by the power of music MYA has share with our whole family.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The work MYA does is truly irreplaceable. The reasons are two-fold. One, there are simply an extraordinarily small number of music programs nationwide of the scale and caliber that MYA operates at. Second, even less - MYA is quite possibly unique, in fact - are the number of these schools that operate with warmth, heart and community in mind.

I am an alumni who has never once considered a career in music. Providentially, however, my talents allowed me to be placed in MYA's top orchestra through all four years of high school. Though there were at least a dozen students superior to me in ability (most considering music school), I never once felt denied opportunity or excluded in any way. MYA does this for people. It builds communities.

That idea - that music builds community and that community is an ends as well as a means - is not unique to MYA. It is unique to programs that produce musicians as talented as MYA, or offer opportunities to as many students as MYA. I can't say enough good things about the place. It remains my home away from home.

Sam S.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Dr. Dennis,

It’s 9pm at night and I should be packing up my apartment getting ready to depart Jacksonville Florida and return back to Chicago. However, Mahler 5 started blaring out of my radio and I just got excited! I know that piece! In fact, I know just about every note of that piece. I started to remember back to all those wonderful Saturday morning in Ft Sheridan rehearsing with some of the best musicians in the Chicago area. I wanted to let you that I enjoyed every minute of it. The lessons learned at MYA are life lessons that I take to heart every day at work & in college.

This was my first summer since I was 16 away from Ravinia Festival. I received a last minute call at the end of April from the Railroad CSX to come down to Jacksonville Florida. I helped their network planning group with simulation modeling that they’re doing to plan for high speed rail, and new freight traffic. However, working indoors in the heat of Florida is very different than the cool summer evenings outside listening to the CSO at Ravinia. I simply miss classical music.

I hope you had an excellent summer. I believe MYA went to Germany this summer? I look forward to the next alumni concert. And don’t be too hard on the Bassoon section. They really are paying attention.

-Sam Sogin

Board Member

Rating: 5

Both of our daughters enjoyed MYA for 8 and 9 years, through grade school and high school. They participated in multiple orchestras, choruses and chamber groups. MYA was such an important part of their life, and the one activity that we never had to "prod" them to do -- every Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon they were ready to spend the day at MYA with friends, learning and performing great music with excellent conductors and teachers. MYA exposed them to so much, including other cultures via performance tours to Spain, Portugal, China and South Korea. The lessons learned from MYA have extended far beyond music -- the benefit of hard work; pursuing your passion; trying new things; and being with peers who share your interest and commitment.

Review from Guidestar

Rhona R.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Midwest Young Artists is an organization that provides excellent adjunct programming for students studying music that require additional stimulation not provided in their school situation. Students meet weekly with dedicated faculty who are committed to creating an environment of excellence. What makes Midwest Young Artists different from other programs is the commitment to core educational values which are presented in a supportive manner. They develop a wonderful camaraderie with other students which lasts well into adulthood.