MYAC Named 2019 Youth Orchestra of The Year



Midwest Young Artists Conservatory has been named 2019 Youth Orchestra of the Year by the Illinois Council of Orchestras for excellence in the field of music performance and support of musical organizations.

An awards panel of judges drawn from the Illinois Council of Orchestras Board of Directors and independent professional conductors and musicians reviewed nominations representing orchestras, youth orchestras, and chamber ensembles throughout Illinois. The awards are given to organizations in recognition of their exemplary achievements. This is the 2nd time in MYAC's 26 year history it has received this award.

The Youth Orchestra of the Year award will be presented to Dr. Allan Dennis on Sunday April 28 at MYAC’s Spring Concert at Pick Staiger Concert Hall on the campus of Northwestern University. 

MYAC’s orchestras and ensembles have partnered with the highest quality of professional educators and performing soloists and global music organizations, such as the Lang Lang Foundation, to offer educational programming and performing opportunities to over 900+ students from over 70 communities in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, with some students traveling from as far away as Madison, WI weekly to attend MYAC programs.

Highlights of MYAC’s growth and development over its 26 years in existence: 

The MYAC orchestra program has grown from only 2 orchestras to 9 youth orchestras serving children from elementary school to high school. Its chamber music program has grown from only 8 groups to 65+ chamber groups.

MYAC’s nationally renowned Chamber Music Program is unmatched in size and history of receiving top honors and gold medals at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition among other youth chamber music competitions.

Major performing jazz artists visit MYAC each year for “Jazz in January” to provide MYAC jazz students with masterclasses and side by side performances.

The MYAC Choral Program offers 4 vocal groups for ages 5 to teens and has performed in Carnegie Hall and most recently toured Europe.

MYAC’s highly successful community outreach program, Young Music Scholars, offers private lessons and appropriate-level ensemble participation to area students with financial need. This program has the added benefit of allowing MYAC’s most advanced students to learn leadership skills as they mentor less experienced students under the guidance of professional teachers. Due to the success of the YMS program, it will expand to a jazz division in fall 2019.

Comprehensive offerings include summer music programs in voice, jazz, winds, orchestra, and chamber, monthly master classes with area artist-educators, free music theory classes for enrolled students, composition classes, and national and international tour opportunities.

Two national music competitions are hosted by MYAC: Walgreens National Concerto Competition and the Discover National Chamber Music Competition, offering students the experience of performing for notable musician judges, and the satisfaction of achieving a high-level performance goal. This December, MYAC received over 260 entrants for the Walgreens competition from students in all parts of the country.

MYAC achieved the Platinum Seal of Transparency from Guidestar in 2018, a recognition of the highest level of nonprofit stewardship. In addition, MYAC was awarded the 2018 Top-Rated Nonprofit designation, as determined by Great Nonprofits.


Discover National Chamber Music Competition Winners To Perform Recital at MYAC

Trio Domino- photo by Melissa De Guzman
Congratulations to the winners of the 2019 Discover National Chamber Music Competition, hosted by MYAC. The competition was held on Feb. 17 at Bennett Gordon Hall at Ravinia.

Winning chamber groups will perform a recital Sunday, March 17 at 7 p.m. at the MYAC Center at 878 Lyster Rd. in Highwood, IL.

The 2019 winners are:


MYAC Division

Overall Winner:
Trio Domino
Daria Chudnovsky: violin, Samuel Du: cello, Myroslav Mikhailenko: piano
Midwest Young Artists Conservatory, Lyudmila Lakisova: coach

Honorable Mention:
The MYAC Bass Quintet
Ukiah Mooses: violin, Hannah Ku: violin, Ezra Burca: viola, Haoming Song: cello, Ian King: bass
Midwest Young Artists Conservatory, Allan Dennis: coach

Open Division

Overall Winner:
CAS Trio
Suminne Hong: violin, Claudia Yoon: cello, Anya Claire: piano
Vernon Hills & New Trier High Schools, David Cunliffe: coach

Strings/Piano Division Winner:
CAS Trio
Suminne Hong: violin, Claudia Yoon: cello, Anya Claire: piano
Vernon Hills & New Trier High Schools, David Cunliffe: coach

Other Instruments Division Winner:
PMP Saxophone Quartet
Ceana Plurad: soprano saxophone, Gabriel Reyes: alto saxophone, Aaron Segal: tenor saxophone, Mark Cirineo: baritone saxophone
Niles West High School, Bryan Polacek: coach

Strings/Piano Division Honorable Mentions:
Nova Piano Trio
Irene Castillo: violin, Brandon Cheng: cello, Jeremy Nohel: piano
Merit School of Music: Andrew Williams: coach

The Odyssey String Quartet
Makaela Foerderer: violin, Joelle Chen: violin, Dylan Kinneavy: cello, Sean Dougherty: viola
St. Paul Conservatory of Music, Tom Rosenberg: coach

Other Instruments Division Honorable Mention
Precipice Saxophone Quartet
Emmett Connolly: soprano saxophone, Cole Moorhead: alto saxophone, Christopher Li: tenor saxophone, Taki Salameh: baritone saxophone
Merit School of Music, Thomas Snydacker: coach

Visceral Brass Quintet
Jake Nitzsche: trumpet, Aidan Power: trumpet, Jaila Carr: horn, Daniel Johnson: trombone, Reid Harman: bass trombone
Merit School of Music, Timothy Riordan: coach


Young Music Scholars Shine at December Recital

MYAC Young Music Scholars program
Young Music Scholar MyKenzie Moton with her parents, violin teacher Danielle Taylor, and student mentor Kimie Han
Our Young Music Scholars had the chance to shine before family and friends in their own semester-end recital on December 11 at the MYAC Center. Young musicians from 3rd through 12th grade performed solo repertoire ranging from Bach to Kuchler, pieces they have worked on this semester during weekly lessons with their master teacher and their student mentor.

MYAC’s Young Music Scholars (YMS) program provides economically disadvantaged students with tuition-free private lessons and appropriate-level ensemble participation. School music teachers, mostly from Waukegan public schools, refer students to the program who demonstrate a passion for music but who lack financial resources for music education.

YMS cello instructor Martin Nocedal explained the importance of recitals for these students: “The teachers all have really high expectations for our YMS students, and it’s important to get them in the habit of regular solo performance. Solo performance can be pretty daunting, especially when you’re a young student, and the only way to get better at it is through practice and through repetition.”

YMS recitals also serve an important community building element. Extended family members come together to hear their students and others who they’ve seen grow through the program. Nocedal states, “It means a lot to the families to be all there together listening to the students. These families are heavily invested in their student’s growth, but they care almost as much about how the other students are doing. For some of them, it’s been six/seven years they’ve been hearing them play, so it really is like a family. And these recitals feel like family reunions.”

YMS recitals are equally rewarding for the YMS teachers, a time when they can see their students’ dedication pay off. Nocedal reflects, “I have found that the students in the YMS program are some of the hardest working players that I’ve ever worked with. They are not there because their parents are forcing them to be there, they are there because they love playing their instrument and this is something they really enjoy doing. They have such a great outlook and such a great attitude, that I look forward to working with them every week.”

The YMS program is funded entirely through donations, and we are eternally grateful for this support.

Hot Jazz in January

MYAC Jazz in January 2019

Each winter, MYAC jazz students have the extraordinary opportunity to learn from and perform for a notable guest artist during our weekend-long “Jazz in January” event, and this year was no exception as we warmly welcomed acclaimed trombonist, composer, arranger, and educator Francisco Torres for a masterclass and performances with students.

Francisco hails originally from Hermosillo, Sonora in Mexico, and now makes his home on the West Coast. His varied and extensive resume includes soundtrack credits on major animated films such as “Coco” and “The Incredibles”, as well as a host of TV and commercial work. He performs live as musical director for the legendary Poncho Sanchez, is a member of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, John Beasley’s Monkestra, and the Clare Fischer Big Band.  He’s a Yamaha recording artist with credits on albums with top artists such as Bob Dylan, Ricky Martin, Dr. Dre, Michael Buble, Frank Ocean, Pitbull, All American Rejects, Spoon, Angelique Kidjo, Ry Cooder, Brian Setzer, and Los Lobos, among others.

Though you might not know by reading his impressive bio, Francisco began his musical studies at age 15, an age that’s sometimes considered late. However, he quickly made a name for himself in various musical genres from classical to jazz to rock and pop. During the masterclass he led at MYAC, students listened closely as he recounted his journey from a teen, who just happened upon a jazz band rehearsal one day, to today. He emphasized his belief that modern musicians must be open to a diverse career path, as the music industry continues to change and develop.

Despite an unexpected snowstorm that dropped roughly 8 inches of snow on the Fort Sheridan area, the fireplaces were ablaze at the MYAC Center on January 19th and 20th as Francisco led the MYAC jazz students in individual workshops, offering his valuable guidance and instruction.

To conclude the masterclass, younger Jazz Ensemble and older Big Band and Jazz Orchestra students gathered with Francisco and MYAC Jazz Director, Neil Carson, in an exciting jam session that emphasized improvisational skills, theory, harmony, rhythm, and performance tips. The multi-age nature of the group allowed the older students to provide informal mentoring to the less experienced students.

The following afternoon on Sunday, Francisco and MYAC’s Big Band and Jazz Orchestra finished the weekend with a concert in the MYAC North Hall to the delight of a full audience of parents, friends, and community members.

This wonderful Jazz in January weekend could only be possible with the generous assistance of our community of supporters. Through this, MYAC can offer these unique opportunities to young people interested in exploring this rich American art form, in a setting where they learn from both one another and working professionals with expert instruction and unmatched performances they might not receive in a standard music program.

As Jazz Director Neil Carson explains, “Jazz in January continues to be one of the highlights of the MYAC Jazz season. Our ensembles have a chance to stretch out on new, challenging repertoire, and work closely with Francisco, whose extensive background...having worked in countless genres, offers something for all of our students, as well as our faculty.”
(photo credit: Melissa De Guzman)