Hawaii Youth Symphony

What Makes HYS Special?

At Hawaii Youth Symphony, we strive to create an environment that celebrates the individuality of each student and prepares them for their future- whatever they choose to do! Through meaningful opportunities for collaboration, incredible support from our teaching staff, and exciting opportunities, our organization seeks to offer an experience that is truly special. But who are we to tell you what makes HYS special? Let’s hear from our students!

Every year, each of the graduating seniors takes time to reflect on their musical journey with HYS. It is always heart-warming to hear our alumni say that our organization played a part in their personal and musical growth. Here are a few things that make our HYS community a special place, as told by our students themselves!

HYS Embraces Individuality and Fosters Creativity

HYS encourages a well-rounded education, and inspires students to pursue the things that bring them joy. Our programs provide students with opportunities to discover their artistic voice and pursue their passions in an environment that celebrates individuality.

One of the ways we foster creativity is through our commitment to diverse programming. We provide students with the chance to learn and perform a variety of musical styles, including classical, jazz, and Hawaiiana. This exposure helps students expand their musical horizons, challenge their assumptions, and discover new forms of artistic expression.

Class of 2020 graduate Luke Ellis first joined HYS as a violinist when he was in elementary school. After discovering that the violin wasn’t for him, he left the program. Years later, Luke ended up back in HYS- this time as a keyboardist in one of HYS’s Jazz Combos. In his senior booklet, he said “I never thought I would end up back in the program and I never thought HYS would positively change the trajectory of my life. I now hope to pursue jazz piano in the setting of a dual-degree program.” 

Luke now attends Cornell University where he is studying Information Science and Music. He performs with the Cornell University Jazz Ensemble, as well as with his band After Six– a modern R&B, pop, rock, and neo-soul group.

Photo: After Six

It’s always awesome to see our alumni continue to pursue music beyond high school! By encouraging creativity and exploration, we also help our students develop not only as musicians but also as thinkers and problem-solvers. HYS Students learn that when you invest time and heart in your interests, it is so rewarding! Here’s a look into some of the amazing things our students have been part of in addition to music:

“Over the years, Hawaii Youth Symphony taught me the virtues of hard work and honesty. Everything can be achieved through hard work and effort. I competed in the Hawaii State Science and Engineering fair for two years and the Pacific Symposium for Science and Sustainability for three years. I presented at the 2013 Ocean Sciences Conference and taught summer robotics the same year.” – Brian Kim, Class of 2016, Viola

“Outside of HYS, I have been a member of the Kaiser High School Colorguard and Winterguard for 4 years, as well as a self-taught independent cartoonist and illustrator… Following high school, I intend to go to a 4-year university to study 2D animation and hopefully learn to integrate elements and principles of music and the performing arts into the animated films I create.” – Jacklyn Bregman, Class of 2018, Oboe

No matter what our students are interested in, music education plays an important role in their development. Creativity and exploration are crucial components of a well-rounded education!

HYS Unleashes Potential by Challenging Students to be Their Best

All the credit for this one goes to our amazing teaching staff! Our conductors and teachers do the difficult and wonderful work of providing a supportive, yet challenging environment that inspires students to do their best. 

Class of 2019 student Sunwoo Oh found herself entering HYS as one of the older students in the Beginning Strings program. At first, Sunwoo felt insecure and unsure about learning the violin, but “with the positive and encouraging feedback from the HYS instructors, I began to have a little more confidence and decided to take private lessons… In essence, I continued playing because of the encouragement and confidence HYS has given me.”

We’re grateful that our instructors put so much care into bringing music into our keiki’s lives, and making it a positive experience. They are always on hand to offer guidance, support, and mentorship. Whether it’s helping a student perfect a tricky piece of music, or offering advice on how to pursue a career in music, our teachers are passionate about helping students achieve their goals.

Many Hawaiʻi schools don’t have music programs, and it’s always exciting for our HYS teachers to unlock the talents of students who may have never had the opportunity to learn an instrument. 

“Four years ago, I would never have imagined that I would end up playing in one of the most talented youth orchestras in the nation. Being in a military family and attending a small high school with no orchestra has provided little opportunity for me to grow as a violinist, so my time at HYS has been extremely life-changing. HYS has definitely pushed me to go beyond and to truly appreciate those who bring the gift of music in my life.” – Lauren Llantero, Class of 2018

For students who do have a music program at their school, many say that they appreciated being able to learn a more challenging repertoire at HYS. For example, Class of 2015 bassist Cuyler Bleecker said that “as bass players, we don’t often get the most challenging parts to play, but in YSI, this was frequently not the case. As a result, I had to work a lot harder and grew a lot as a musician and a person.”

50th Anniversary Spring Community Concert April 2015

We love to hear that students end their journey with HYS feeling proud of all they have accomplished and inspired to continue to achieve their goals.

HYS Promotes Positive Peer Relationships

One thing that our organization has done since its incorporation is bring together students from various schools and backgrounds. As they play together, they inspire each other to pursue their passions, broaden each other’s horizons, and most importantly, become amazing friends. 

Class of 1997 flautist Meseret Mitiku said that the students were what made HYS memorable: “The dedication, discipline, and musical talent of my fellow Youth Symphony students were inspiring. I can think of no greater positive peer influence in my high school career.” 

And this sentiment has been echoed year after year:

“Since joining the Youth Symphony II program in eighth grade, the friendships I’ve made over the years have been absolutely incomparable. I always liked the idea of everyone working together, getting serious, as well as having fun in order to make quality music for people to enjoy.” – Jacob Fetterman, Class of 2022

Sure, we learn many important lessons and challenge ourselves to find our own version of success, but at the end of the day, music making is all about fun!

HYS Inspires Students to Serve their Community through Music

We believe that one of our most important roles is to help our students discover the power of music, and the power they have to share it with their community.

Our concerts and recitals provide a platform for students to showcase their talents and share their love of music with others. These events are not just about showing off what we’ve learned, but also about connecting with our audience and creating a sense of community around music.

Maui Community Tour 2019

Class of 2022 Violinist Kristyn Miyamoto’s favorite part about being a member of YSI is that she had many opportunities to perform for her community, such as the neighbor island performances and the Listen and Learn concerts

She said, “YSI provides unique experiences that I cannot get anywhere else. In the future, I will always take with me the experiences of performing complex musical works alongside other students who share the same passion for enhancing the community around them.” 

Class of 2023 trumpeter Juan Fangon was even inspired to pursue a career in music education. He plans to attend the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa where he will study music education. Juan said that “as a future educator, I plan to provide students an outlet where they can be able to express themselves freely through music, much like what was provided to me.”

Ultimately, our goal is to help each and every student find their own unique path, whether that means pursuing a career as a professional musician, enjoying music as a lifelong hobby, or just by carrying the lessons they learned from music into their future. By embracing individuality and fostering a love of music, we believe that we can help students achieve their full potential and lead fulfilling lives.

HYS Class of 1975 alumna Lisa Wong summed it up well when she said that “Hawaii Youth Symphony has nurtured and educated generations of musicians. Music is for a lifetime: HYS teaches young people the joys of lifelong friendships, a lifelong love of music, and a lifelong love of learning.”

Mahalo to our HYS community who make our programs so special!

As our senior class this year graduates and moves forward through their journey, and we begin preparations to enter a new school year and a new season of programming, we are filled with excitement! Thank you to all who contribute to our nonprofit’s mission of developing our islands’ youth to their fullest potential through music.

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