West Seattle string students perform Side-by-Side with members of the Seattle Youth Symphony in 2012. Students in the get extra instruction through an outreach program offered by the SYSO.

Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra reflects on their work in West Seattle

The following story was shared by Kathleen Allen with the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra:


The Southwest Seattle Strings Project enters its 5th Year

This week Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra (SYSO) begins its fifth year of providing professional musicians to coach beginning violin, viola, cello and bass players in the elementary schools in Southwest Seattle – Arbor Heights, Concord International, Highland Park, Roxhill, Sanislo and West Seattle Elementary Schools - as well as at Denny International Middle School completely free of charge to the schools and the students’ families.

Professional musicians Kim Roy, Begin Scarseth, Daniel Mullikin and Jared Ballance bring their expertise as teachers and performers to the classroom. These talented musician-educators have served as university music faculty and private teachers, as well as having performed with such local and regional orchestras as Northwest Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Rock Orchestra, and Tacoma Symphony Orchestra. In Southwest Seattle, they collaborate with Seattle Public School music teachers to enhance violin, viola, cello and string bass instruction.

In the six elementary schools, SYSO coaches co-teach with Elementary Instrumental Music teacher Casey Cheever, who is himself a SYSO alumnus. Mr. Cheever worked with SYSO coaches last year and explains the impact of this program for both himself and his students:
“As a public school music teacher, I am grateful to offer my personal musical experience and guidance to the next generation. As I work alongside the SYSO coaches I feel a sense of home and comfort knowing that I am still a part of a wonderful community of musicians.”

In addition to supporting school-day instruction, the coaches provide free lessons before-school at each elementary school and they coach at the local West Seattle Community Orchestras (WSCO) which rehearses every Tuesday evening at Chief Sealth International High School and is a program free to all public school students. WSCO rehearsals begin Tuesday, October 8 and spots are still available for their beginning-level orchestra.

All of this individualized support provided by SYSO coaches to Southwest music students has led to an incredible surge in enrollment in Denny International Middle School’s orchestra. Just four years ago the Denny orchestra was comprised of one class and 39 students. Today the anticipated enrollment for three levels of orchestra is 165 students, in large part due to the continued encouragement and musical skills development that the students received from SYSO coaches in their elementary years.

An opportunity to celebrate the young musicians of Southwest Seattle will happen at Super String Saturday on Saturday, January 25, 2014 at Chief Sealth International High School. This fun day of music-making includes the Southwest Seattle elementary and middle school musicians getting a chance to meet, listen to, and play alongside the Seattle Youth Symphony, one of the country’s top youth orchestras. The students, families and the community are all invited.

The Southwest Seattle Strings Project is offered free to these schools because of generous individual, corporate and foundation donors, including the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington State Arts Commission, The Clowes Fund, The Washington Women’s Foundation and the RealNetworks Foundation. To learn more about this Southwest Seattle String Project, please visit SYSO’s website at or view a recent video about the impact of the program. To help sustain this program, individuals can donate at

Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras (SYSO) has a tradition of life-changing excellence and innovation. Founded in 1942, SYSO is the largest youth orchestra organization in the nation, providing direct instruction to nearly 1700 students annually through four full orchestras, two summer programs (Marrowstone Music Festival and Marrowstone-in-the-City), and partnerships with local public schools. SYSO’s flagship orchestra, the Seattle Youth Symphony, is one of the premiere youth orchestras in the U.S. Made up of the finest young classical musicians in the region, the Seattle Youth Symphony regularly delivers professional-caliber performances filled with the unrivaled energy and passion of youthful artistry. Internationally recognized guest conductors and soloists frequently perform with the orchestra, and members receive regular coaching lessons with distinguished artists from the Seattle Symphony and other regional orchestras and ensembles.

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