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Carolina Youth Symphony gives kids a creative outlet

Members of the Carolina Youth Symphony have been entertaining the Upstate for decades. Just as its member musicians grow throughout their time together, the organization itself has blossomed over the years.

“It was established in 1955,” said Lee Elmore, Carolina Youth Symphony executive director. “It was originally called the Greenville Little Symphony. We’ve morphed into three full orchestras.”

Children in this skill-based, youth orchestra typically do not start before third grade, though there have been exceptions, and they may continue through high school. As many as 260 children participate, with 85 – 90 in the largest and most advanced of the three orchestras.

“We’ve got over 40 cities represented and about 82 schools,” Elmore said. “We pull a lot of kids out of North Carolina, too.”

Participation in CYS is in addition to, not instead of, playing in their school’s program, though students from private and home schools are also welcome to be a part of the organization.

Throughout the school year, students rehearse at Furman University every Sunday. Concerts are held at Furman and at the Peace Center. CYS also performs each summer as guest artists at Furman’s Lakeside Concert Series. The organization has several unique opportunities for young musicians, including playing at Carnegie Hall in New York and making special memories at Camp Greenville.

“We’re headed back for our seventh trip to Carnegie Hall on Easter Sunday,” Elmore said. “We’ll take with us 102 kids.”

Auditions are held each May, with the summer rounding out at camp.

“One of the things that we do is going to Camp Greenville in August for our summer camp,” Elmore said. “Typically, we take about 210. Somebody may be the only person from their school in the orchestra. They don’t know anybody. We spend the weekend. We rehearse and hike and play group games. They get to know their orchestra and they’ve got some friends. It’s not just the musical experience – it’s the friendship building.”

Auditions for Carolina Youth Symphony will be held May 19 and 25 at Furman University. The program is fee-based, but scholarships are available if there is financial need. Payment plans and multiple-child discounts are also available. For details, visit

Bring Your Instrument and Play Day will be held in April. Musicians are invited to attend a rehearsal, meet the conductors and learn more about CYS. Parents may sit it and observe. For date and details, visit

The CYS’s Concert and Repertory Orchestras perform at 3 p.m. March 3 at the Peace Center. Tickets are $10 each for adults and $5 each for students. The CYS’s Winter Concerto Concert is at 7 p.m. March 3 at the Peace Center. For tickets, visit For more information, visit