About the Hyde Park Youth Symphony

Serving nearly 100 students on the South Side, the Hyde Park Youth Symphony is one of the fastest growing orchestral programs in Chicago. Offering students a wide range of musical and cultural experiences, HPYS aims to provide a comprehensive and holistic education in music.


Since 2015, the HPYS has been an in-residence partner organization of both the University of Chicago Department of Music and the Logan Center for the Arts. Rehearsals and performances take place on the beautiful and inspiring UChicago campus, and students have access to the world-class facilities and resources through this partnership. Last season, Youth Symphony performed at leading venues across the South Side, including Rockefeller Chapel, the South Shore Cultural Center, Mandel Hall, and Logan Center.


For over 60 years, the HPYS has provided a high-quality arts experience for youth musicians, nurturing in them a love of music that will last a lifetime. The HPYS serves a diverse range of young people and families from various educational, racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds, bringing them together in the joy of making music together.


A commitment to engagement with the broader South Side community has led to partnerships and programming including the Community Brass Band, a tuition-free class for beginning brass students without instrumental ensembles in their schools.


By building from the ground up and partnering with local community leaders, the HPYS helps serve a broader demographic of young musicians as they grow through ensemble performance.


The Hyde Park Youth Symphony began in 1955 when the living room of Claire Despres Oppenheim became too small to contain the chamber ensemble of her string students. Claire, a Hyde Park resident for most of her life, began teaching string and piano lessons in the 1940s, and in October 1955, Claire and a group of interested Hyde Park parents started the Children’s Symphony Orchestra of Chicago, directed by Charles R. Buckley.


Always eager to give her students the best possible ensemble experiences, Claire Oppenheim founded two additional groups: the Hyde Park Youth Chamber Orchestra in 1971, and the Youth String Sinfonia in 1982. These two groups merged in 1984 to form the Hyde Park Youth Sinfonia, and the organization became a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 1995, a year after Claire’s death at the age of 84.