‘Nothing short of a miracle’ as Wisconsin Youth Orchestra opens site

By Kayla Huynh

For decades, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras rehearsed in what Artistic Director Kyle Knox called “the bowels” of the UW-Madison humanities building. 

After the organization moved out four years ago, WYSO became scattered, with members practicing in schools, churches and even parking lots throughout Dane County. 

Now, for the first time in the nonprofit’s 58-year history, the regional orchestra for young musicians has its own home at 1118 East Washington Ave. 

“To go from that … to a building that is unique in the entire United States, it’s nothing short of a miracle,” Knox said. “It’s just astounding that in a city this size we have a building like this, (one) that is all about celebrating music and about bringing people together.” 

At the building’s official opening Tuesday, Gov. Tony Evers, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and state Superintendent Jill Underly — all of whom played musical instruments growing up — praised the organization for helping hundreds of aspiring artists grow in their passions. 

“That connection of making music with other people really is magic. It’s life changing and it feeds your soul,” Rhodes-Conway told the crowd of students, donors and alumni, including members of the inaugural 1966 orchestra. “This building and WYSO will allow even more kids to access that magic, that education, and perhaps most importantly, to meet … other people who are just as passionate about music as they are.” 

The new $33 million building adds to a growing youth arts corridor on the near east side, where WYSO, the Madison Youth Arts Center, Madison Youth Choirs and the Children’s Theater of Madison are all just steps from each other.