Hawai‘i Youth Symphony Celebrates 55 Years

September 30, 2019, 12:18 PM HST (Updated September 30, 2019, 12:18 PM)
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Hawai‘i Youth Symphony proudly celebrated the accomplishments of its 58 graduating seniors Sunday, May 5, 2019. PC: Hawai’i Youth Symphony.

The Hawai‘i Youth Symphony isn’t so youthful anymore, as it turns 55 this season. But the organization hasn’t missed a step when it comes to its work with young music students across the state, regardless of their current abilities to pay or play.

Established as a nonprofit organization in 1964, HYS has continued to shape hundreds of young musicians from all walks of life—serving communities across the Hawaiian Islands, as well as attracting students from around the world, a press release from the organization said. Committed to making “music a right, not a privilege,” HYS continues to provide new opportunities for students to experience the joy of music.

“As we look to the bright future ahead for HYS, we are honored to be an instrumental part in inspiring young people to grow with the character and life skills that music training imparts, and wish to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the community for their continued support,” said Randy Wong, president of HYS. “We’re delighted to further our outreach to even more underserved areas, and in addition to classical music, we’ll continue to include opportunities for students to explore a variety of music.”

More than 700 students between the ages of 7 and 18 presently participate in HYS programs, which span general music, string, jazz and band classes, summer intensives, neighbor island initiatives and three symphony orchestras, the release continued.

This season, HYS will be revamping and expanding upon current programs by introducing new ensembles within the HYS Jazz Program and scaling out its Music in the Clubhouse Program with a new beginning violin class at the Boys & Girls Club of Hawai‘i’s Nanakuli YET Clubhouse. This new violin class is seeded by a prestigious PlayUSA grant from Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. HYS is the first Hawai‘i recipient of said grant, the release said.

HYS recently welcomed music educator Joseph Stepec as Director of Orchestral Activities to oversee the artistic and educational aspects of three orchestras in the HYS Symphony Program. He will also conduct Youth Symphony I—the organization’s finest high school ensemble and one of the most prestigious youth symphonies in the country, the release said.

He will further serve as HYS Artistic Director of the Pacific Music Institute, which recently expanded its opportunities for students through important partnerships such as the Orchestral Learning Alliance created with the National Orchestral Institute and Festival.

“The mission and goals of HYS deeply resonate with me, as I too experienced the joy of music and sense of community that came from being a part of a youth symphony,” said Stepec. “The future is truly exciting, and I’m thrilled to have the chance to make a difference in the lives of these talented young musicians.”

As a longtime board member and an instrumental figure in the incorporation of HYS, Roy E. King has witnessed the power of music and the positive influence Hawai‘i’s only youth symphony has had on the development of generations of students.

“Many schools and underserved areas don’t have music programs, and we feel everyone should have the opportunity to learn music,” said King. “It has been such a rewarding experience to see HYS grow and serve this need with the great stewardship of our staff, faculty and board, and through the generous support of the community. Here we are 55 years later. Happy birthday, HYS.”

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