After over half a century based at the Boston University College of Fine Arts, Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (BYSO) has announced that it has acquired a space of its own at 235 Huntington Ave. at the southern end of the Christian Science Plaza, across the street from Symphony Hall. There, it plans to establish the new BYSO Youth Center for Music
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The new building provides a solution to a vision the organization has had for roughly 15 years, said BYSO executive director Catherine Weiskel in a phone interview. The additional space offered by the BYSO Youth Center will allow the program to both centralize its rehearsals and expand the reach, scope, and capacity of its educational offerings for young musicians.
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Weiskel, who has been the organization’s executive director for 23 years, said that the new facility would give the BYSO a greater presence in the city and attract more children to learning about classical music. “We’re proud of how this place will play into the lives of our kids,”she said. “It’s going to be a real place they can call home.”
As the project unfolded, finding a space within Boston itself became a top priority.“We are the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras,” said Weiskel.“Being in the suburbs or doing something outside of the city just always felt wrong.”
The organization, which serves students ages 5 to 18, has flourished under the leadership of music director Federico Cortese, who took over in 1999. During his tenure so far, the number of annual auditions has significantlyincreased, and BYSO has debuted several new ensembles and initiatives. The BYSO umbrella now encompasses multiple symphony and chamber orchestras as well as a wind ensemble, a chamber music program, and for the youngest students, a small string orchestra.
The new facility will also serve as a nexus on weekdays for the BYSO’s Intensive Community Program (ICP), an outreach initiative that offers musical training, financial aid, lessons, and mentorship to students from underserved communities. According to Weiskel’s latest data, 20 percent of students in BYSO ensembles are part of the ICP program.
“ICP has been doing their lessons at various places around town,” said Weiskel., noting that “now we’ll be able to do our teaching there with them. It’ll have 10 very good practice rooms in there for lessons.”
The BYSO negotiated a long-term lease with the First Church of Christ, Scientist to acquire the 30,000-square-foot Brutalist building, which was built in 1971 and designed by Araldo Cossutta, an associate in I.M. Pei’s architectural firm. Renovations to the space are scheduled to begin in mid-April, and the BYSO plans to start hosting the first programs in the new space in the fall.