Grantee Spotlight: San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory (SDYS)

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Since 1945, San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory (SDYS) has given thousands of young musicians the opportunity to study and perform classical music at an advanced level. The sixth oldest continuously operating youth orchestra in the United States, SDYS’ programs have grown from one advanced orchestra of 60 students to over 600 participating in 12 orchestral and wind ensembles at the advanced, intermediate and introductory levels.

SDYS’ mission is to instill excellence in the musical and personal development of students through rigorous and inspiring musical training experiences. They interact with all musical communities to broaden cultural horizons, embrace the diversity of current and prospective students, and enrich the community through programs and collaborations that increase access to and appreciation of classical music.

The NAMM Foundation grant directly supports the SDYS’ Community Opus Project. This program offers after school instrumental orchestra and band programs for students in Chula Vista, a city in southern San Diego County. Musicians meet together with a team of Teaching Artists – all professional musicians and educators – for two hours of music instruction, twice per week. The school district had eliminated it arts program completely in the mid 1990s, and the Community Opus Project re-introduced the power of music, convincing the district to provide music education to all of its students. As a result of The NAMM Foundation Grant SDYS has received over the years, 30,000 K-6 students who did not have access to music education are now receiving it as part of their in-school curriculum. Today, the students in this district are making greater gains in math and language tests than their counterparts throughout San Diego County.

"Everyone at SDYS has witnessed first-hand the power of music education to improve the lives of young people. Learning music does so much to create pathways of success and achievement," said Dalouge Smith, President and CEO of SDYS. "With support from The NAMM Foundation, we're able to provide under-resourced children and communities with high quality music making experiences that deliver far reaching benefits in the realms of academics, social and cognitive development. In particular, our Community Opus Project supported by The NAMM Foundation has convinced Chula Vista school district leaders to return music and all arts education to 30,000 elementary school students.” 

The success of the SDYS Community Opus Program has been a catalyst for other youth orchestras around the country to work with schools and districts to establish or improve in-school music education. 

 The NAMM Foundation Music Making Program Grants is one aspect of the foundation's activities.  We invite you to participate in The NAMM Foundation's SupportMusic Coalition and freely use the advocacy materials available on our website. To see the full list of this year’s NAMM Foundation grantees, click here. Learn how you can be part of The NAMM Foundation and its efforts to make sure music making is part of every persons life by visiting

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