Memphis Youth Symphony provides students with hope amidst COVID-19


Kyla Randle/The Scroll

Left to right: Molly Yuan (12), Abby Cassius (11), Anyu Gu (10), Zoe Wolfe (12) and Lily Zeng (12) performed a quintet together in the Memphis Youth Symphony. Students can safely perform with others through the program.

For some students, playing an instrument functions as a way to express themselves differently through music. The Memphis Youth Symphony (MYSP) is an organization that many participate in to share their talent, perform and learn more skills with peers and professors. 

MYSP offers those in grades 9-12 who play wind, percussion, brass or string instruments a chance to  practice and perform outside of school. Abby Cassius (11) has played the viola for six years and has been a part of the program for two years. 

“The Memphis Youth Symphony is an organization where kids of any age up to seniors in high school can experience what it is like to play in a symphony orchestra,” Cassius said. 

Despite not being able to rehearse normally, the MYSP continues to allow students to participate by having virtual rehearsals and small, socially distanced group performances. Lily Zeng (12) has played the violin for 12 years, been in the Memphis Youth Symphony for eight years and enjoys the rehearsal time she takes part in. 

“We have online and in-person outdoor intimate chamber groups,” Zeng said. “Trying to play together has been a challenge…We try to connect anyway we can.”

With a large club membership,MYSP offers students a chance  to learn from other musicians in the community. Additionally, others use the symphony to broaden their knowledge about their instruments while getting to perform. 

“It allows students and younger children to learn with professionals about the music business, ” Cassius said. “For me, my quartet and quintet get to train with professionals and the Youth Symphony often helps us find gigs to play.”

Students like Zeng enjoy meeting and performing with other students who have been playing instruments in school and through extracurricular programs. 

“You will find musicians who put their soul into the music they produce, and the amount of soul you hear in the concerts encourages you to care the same about your passions,” Zeng said. 

As a part of being in the MYSP, practicing is very important. When the time comes for students to perform, students enjoy the relief of the final product being complete. 

“I enjoy sight-reading a piece when I first receive it; however, the practicing process is very rigorous, so when performance day comes, it feels very invigorating and exciting to play for an audience, ” Cassius said. “I love the feeling of joy that comes with performing a piece that has been worked so hard on.”

The organization continues to make a difference in students’ lives, whether it is expanding their musical horizons or strengthening their love for music. 

“My talents can contribute to the community, and the best part of playing for others is when it connects the people in the event,” Zeng said. “Music is just so special because it crosses cultures and is a common language for everyone to enjoy and experience.”

With its commitment to practice and performance, MYSP encourages students to continue to do what they love. 

“It makes me feel like I am a part of something bigger than myself,” Zeng said. “I am a part of a community that gives back to Memphis, loves Memphis and encourages others to do the same. We bring smiles to people’s faces and connect them.”