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Listen to the Future: Inclusive and Equitable Orchestras

Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras promotes diversity and inclusion in orchestras through performances, a panel discussion, and recording.


The Symphony Orchestra of Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO) premiered a new work by Michael Abels, “Winged Creatures,” with soloists Anthony McGill (clarinet) and Demarre McGill (flute) on June 14, 2018 as part of the League of American Orchestras Conference in Chicago. Following the performance, CYSO and the McGills presented a panel discussion titled “Inclusive and Equitable Orchestras” to the audience of 1,000 industry professionals at Symphony Center’s Orchestra Hall. On June 16, 2018, CYSO and the McGills performed “Winged Creatures” along with “Concerto Duo” by Joel Puckett (commissioned by CYSO in 2012) and other works for the public at the Studebaker Theater, and held recording sessions on June 16 and 17, 2018. The resulting recording, produced by Chicago label Cedille Records, will be released in May 2019.

CYSO, as well as the orchestral community at large, recognizes that there is a lack of diversity among professional orchestra musicians as well as audience members. In this field, youth orchestras such as CYSO have the exceptional opportunity to make a positive impact in this area. By training young musicians between the ages of 6 – 18, CYSO is developing the future of orchestral music, both in terms of performers and audiences. The McGills are alumni of CYSO and, as natives of Chicago, have a strong connection to the organization and our community. And, as prominent Black musicians in the field of classical music, the McGills serve as important role models for young musicians of color. In order to also contribute to diversity in repertoire, CYSO and Cedille Records chose to work with composer Michael Abels, who has written over 20 works for orchestra and composed the score for the film “Get Out.”

For 72 seasons, CYSO has been providing high-level instrumental ensemble training to students from across the Chicago area. CYSO alumni go on to perform in the world’s finest orchestras and music ensembles, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and many more. CYSO’s Symphony Orchestra is comprised of 125 of the most talented and dedicated student musicians from the Chicago area. As the flagship orchestra of CYSO, the Symphony Orchestra has garnered accolades and recognition over the history of the ensemble, with Chicago Tribune critic John von Rhein declaring of a recent concert “The performance would have done credit to an adult professional ensemble.”

This project is part of CYSO’s and the League of American Orchestras’ efforts to advance diversity and inclusion so that orchestras better represent the communities that they serve. The performance and panel discussion at the League of American Orchestras conference helped to engage orchestra representatives in this important discussion. The recording, which includes “Winged Creatures,” “Concerto Duo,” and other works for flute, clarinet and orchestra, is being produced by Cedille Records. Cedille is an organization that is dedicated to producing classical recordings of the highest quality featuring outstanding musicians from Chicago, with a particular focus on new and underrepresented compositions and important interpretations of standard repertoire in innovative programs.

Project Media

Infinite Tree by Glenn Kotche
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Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras’ Symphony Orchestra was joined by composer and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche for the world premiere of his new concerto, Infinite Tree. Kotche and the orchestra, under the baton of Maestro Allen Tinkham, performed at Symphony Orchestra’s May 2017 concert at Symphony Center’s Orchestra Hall in Chicago. CYSO commissioned the piece. This sample shows the high quality of performance by CYSO students, as well as the organization’s commitment to commissioning and performing new music.

Concerto Duo by Joel Puckett
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The first movement of Concerto Duo by Joel Puckett for solo flute, solo clarinet and orchestra. The recording is from the premiere performance with Demarre McGill, flute, Anthony McGill, clarinet, and Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras with Allen Tinkham, conducting. The piece was recorded live at Orchestra Hall in Chicago on May 13, 2012. This work sample shows CYSO’s previous collaborations with Demarre and Anthony McGill and CYSO’s commitment to commissioning and premiering new works.

RADIANT CHiLD by David T. Little
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CYSO’s Encore Chamber Orchestra led by Music Director, Allen Tinkham featuring Third Coast Percussion, recorded the first video performance of David T. Little’s RADIANT CHiLD with support from New Music USA.

Start and End Dates



Chicago, Illinois

Project Created By

Chicago, Illinois
Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras’ mission is to inspire and cultivate personal excellence through music. To do this, CYSO provides high-level instrumental ensemble training to students from across the Chicago area. We continue to grow and evolve to meet the needs of our community, and CYSO now provides the following programs on-site: Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonic Orchestra,…

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Collaborator and Recording Company
Chicago, Illinois


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