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The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra building is ready for its premiere

The ribbon cutting is coming soon, but music is already being made.

Architectural rendering of the new Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra building. Visitors mill near the entryway at twilight.jpg

The new $33 million WYSO building is set to have it’s grand opening this spring. | Photo via Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra

There are children doing tai chi before sunrise at the new Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra (WYSO) building. The 14 kids are getting in the zone before picking up their mallets and drumsticks for percussion ensemble practice.

Elsewhere, eight youngsters want to play harp. A standard-sized harp is about as tall as they are. They’re passionate about harp music, though, so they’ll practice on miniature harps, all of them fun colored in pinks and blues.

Three children's harps lay on their sides. They're colored white, pink, and blue.jpg

Eight Madison children are currently taking harp lessons at the new WYSO building. | Photo by 608today

Down the hall in a piano lab —the only one of its kind in Madison — students play along with the instructor, pouring out who they are in sharps and flats, etudes and concertos.

Interior shot of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra building's piano lab

The new WYSO piano lab is the only one of its kind in Madison. | Photo by 608today

These children, of around 500, are all excited about being in the long-awaited new music center on the 1100 block of East Washington Avenue. The $33 million building will have its official ribbon cutting in April, but music is already being heard inside.

Pleasant Rowland, creator of the American Girl dolls, recently remarked, “The new building right in the heart of Madison will change the horizon for WYSO and the community.” She continued, “Young musicians will dream bigger and work harder. They will connect with others who love music and together create a culture of excellence for everyone.”

Interior shot of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra building

The new WYSO music center has three floors of reheasal spaces, studios, practice rooms and more. | Photo by 608today

An architectural composition

40,085. That’s the square footage of the new space, designed to look like a cello leaning on its side. It has large rehearsal halls, capable of holding 100-piece orchestras with balconies for birds-eye observation. It has studio spaces for all manner of instrumentalists. It has practice rooms for tuba players, bassoonists, violinists, and flautists.

The interior of a rehearsal hall in the new Wisconsin Youth Sympgony Building. It has large curved windows and light wood throughout.JPG

WYSO’s new rehearsal halls can hold 100-piece orchestras. | Photo by 608today

There’s more to the building, much more. There’s a library and instrument repair shop, meeting spaces and reception areas, an outdoor patio, and a grand entryway with art by Andrée Valley, whose work has been in the Venice Architecture Biennale.

As Bridget Fraser, WYSO’s executive director, says, “We are creating a permanent home for generations of young musicians and a spectacular facility that can be used for the entire community.”

Creating Community

It’s been a long time coming. For the last two years, WYSO has been operating without programming space. They’ve held rehearsals and performances across the city - in schools and churches, community centers, and parking lots. Students, eager to be part of WYSO, were put on waiting lists.

No longer. The new building allows WYSO to expand programming opportunities and removes barriers to creating a more inclusive community.

The building is not just for those little tai chi practitioners, nor harpists. It’s for everyone. The organization is hoping the facility will be used by organizations that would have otherwise not had a space.

Susan Gardels is WYSO’s development director. She played violin growing up. “This can hold chamber orchestras, dance recitals, music therapy classes, piano lessons, all at the same time,” she says. “This building can’t just be for us. It’s for everyone.”

Interior shot of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra building

The entryway has a colorful work of art by Andrée Valley. | Photo by 608today

That includes, of course, children. The new space is warm and inviting. There are warm walls of yellows and oranges. There are cozy chairs. There are fun designs in the bathrooms. Immense windows look out over the neighborhood.

“This is a place where they’ll find their craft,” Gardels says.

The interior of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra's percussion studio. Several pieces of percussion, including a vibraphone and piano are in the warm space.jpg

The new WYSO building has three floors full of rehearsal halls, studio spaces, and practice rooms. | Photo by 608today

That might be in the clarinet room, the cello studio, or in the percussion space over a large vibraphone, music about the emanate from the heart of a young spirited child.

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