The Quad City Symphony Youth Ensembles (QCSYE) has been awarded Youth Orchestra of the Year by the Illinois Council of Orchestras (ICO) in recognition of their 2022-23 season. Presented annually, these awards recognize excellence in the field of music performance and for the support of musical organizations. The awards panel of judges are drawn from the Illinois Council of Orchestras Board of Directors and independent professional conductors and musicians. This is the third consecutive year that the ICO has recognized the QCSO, naming them as Professional Orchestra of the Year for their 2020-21 season, and Community Relations of the Year for their 2021-22 season.

The Quad City Symphony Youth Ensembles (QCSYE) set a remarkable standard in the 2022-2023 season, blending educational excellence with community engagement to forge a unique and enriching experience for young musicians. With an impressive array of programs serving over 250 students across four orchestras, QCSYE fosters musical talent while ensuring inclusivity and accessibility. The season was marked by significant achievements including increased enrollment, expanded audience reach, and a pioneering international tour that showcased the ensemble’s talents and the unifying power of music on a global stage. Through their sustainable financial model, commitment to music education, and community contributions, QCSYE exemplifies the transformative impact of youth orchestras, making them a worthy contender for Youth Orchestra of the Year.   

QCSYE consists of four pre-collegiate orchestras for musicians of all ability levels from ages 7 to 18. Serving more than 250 students each season, an increase of 20% over the last two seasons, the program provides valuable opportunities for young musicians throughout the Quad City area and beyond. Students from over 20 different school districts refine their skills and broaden their musical horizons through weekly youth orchestra experiences and sectionals with professional musicians. Programming is diverse and wide-ranging, with works featuring female and BIPOC composers included in their repertoire.  

The QCSYE employs a sustainable financial model, with tuition and ticket revenue covering 50% of programming costs and the remaining 50% covered through grants and the generosity of annual fund donations. More than $10,000 in financial assistance is offered annually, benefiting over 25% of enrolled families and ensuring that participation is accessible to all students, regardless of their financial circumstances. 

As QCSYE enrollment continues to grow, so, too, does its audience base, to the tune of 10% each season. Performances are held in various venues throughout the region, ensuring concerts are accessible to audiences from across the Quad City community.  

QCSYE encourages regular attendance at professional orchestra concerts as an essential part of a well-rounded music education. Such performances provide opportunities for students to hear their instrument played at a professional level and increase music literacy with access to interesting and engaging orchestral repertoire. To this end, the Quad City Symphony Orchestra supplies QCSYE with free tickets to QCSO concerts, and offers Concert Club, where QCSYE students join for a meal and then attend QCSO concerts together as a group. Concert Club saw significant growth during the 22-23 season, with QCSO Masterworks series per concert attendance increasing an average of 33% for the series over the previous season. 

Continuing the commitment to an enriching youth ensemble experience, 40 QCSYE students embarked on a first-of-its-kind international tour of Germany and the Czech Republic in the summer of 2023. Made possible by over $13,000 in financial assistance for tour attendees, the tour offered a unique opportunity to showcase musical talents and gain cultural experience while actively engaging with local communities. One highlight was an exchange experience at Voltaireschule-Gesamtschulcampus mit gymnasialem Bildungsweg, a German high school, where the young musicians interacted with German students, gained a deeper understanding of each other’s music and culture, and realized the power of music to bring people together.  

The ensemble also presented two benefit concerts while on tour, one dedicated to supporting the local individuals experiencing homelessness and one aiding in the renovations of a nearby church. The tour program featured inspiring works by composers from countries the visited, as well as “Moses in Nederland” by emerging composer Michael Kropf, which depicts the experiences of a Jewish man living in the Netherlands during the 1930s. The tour represented a significant milestone in students’ musical journey, fostering personal growth and creating lifelong memories for the young performers. 

The Quad City Symphony Youth Ensembles, with their dedication to diverse programming, community involvement, and diverse opportunities for youth, continue to inspire and nurture young musicians. Through their commitment to fiscal responsibility and community support, they ensure that music remains accessible to all, empowering the next generation to discover the transformative power of music and the joy of communal artistic expression. 

The Illinois Council of Orchestras was founded in 1974 with a mission:

  • to encourage, promote, and assist orchestras throughout the State of Illinois
  • to promote an exchange of information among members, including providing consultants and speakers
  • to hold educational conferences for member organizations, including musicians, staff, boards, volunteers, and audiences.

More information about the ICO is available at

Read the award press release from ICO:


Funding for the QCSO website provided by the Scott County Regional Authority