Inspiration to Passion
The idea of the Central Minnesota Youth Orchestra was conceptualized by Michael Zellgert in the spring of 2013.  During this time, he interviewed instructors, universities, and school teachers about the concept and was given the blessing to move forward.

Shortly after, he contacted individuals from the community, a group of musicians and music enthusiasts, who officially agreed to help establish the program in writing on July 19, 2013.  The newly formed board of directors endeavored to offer communities a program which would be the cornerstone for youth orchestra programs in the region.

The Central Minnesota Youth Orchestra inspires and prepares its students to become passionate leaders in their community or school programs by being a good example through music preparation, listening to instructions, and enhancing their musical knowledge and instrumental skills.

In the Beginning - Day 1
Several students in the region do not have a school orchestra program or a program that offers orchestra levels based on experience and ability.  CMYO has filled this need by offering three ensembles that places skills in a range that allows students to achieve a balanced proficiency along with other students of a similar skill level.

CMYO has been collaborating with private instructors, directors, professors, local educational institutions by offering ways to utilize local professionals using mentors within the CMYO programs.  In addition, CMYO planned to develop a grant approved program which would bring professionals to assist directors with sectionals within the school orchestra programs.
The first home for rehearsals resides at the College of St. Benedict/St. John University.

The fall of 2013, Dr. David Arnott and Dr. Lucia Magney from CSB/SJU were our first guest artists offering a master class on ‘Scottish fiddle’ music.  In the spring of 2014, Dr. Marion Judish from SCSU  offered a master class on the Symphony No. 25 by Mozart. 

In November, Central Minnesota Youth Orchestra was approved for its Non-Profit 501(c)(3) status.  This new status allowed us to qualify for grants without a fiscal agent. 

In addition, we continued to form a partnership with the College of St. Benedict/St. John's University and St. Cloud State University for the use of facilities for rehearsals and performances.  St Cloud Symphony donated funds to assist with the growth of the programs, and Chamber Music Society of St. Cloud has offered discounted tickets.

Recognizing the need, CMYO was offering tuition assistance that was available to students who are struggling to make tuition payments. 

After some discussion, CMYO had taken a new approach to student availability and affordability.  The program removed the tuition based system and changed to a Fair Share system.   The Fair Share shows what the cost of the program is to the families and provides a suggested amount that will help the program.  However, if a family cannot afford the program, they may make customized payments, reduce their amount they will pay, or pay nothing if the family is very encumbered.  This ensures that no student is turned away for financial reasons. 


Quite a bit happened in 2016.  Three field trips (MN Orchestra, SPCO, and Sybarite 5) were offered to the students and chaperones at no charge.  A new website designed to help service the parents and students.  CMYO looked to find new ways to provide quality performance and mentorship to the students via grants and other sources.  Plus, a brand new ensemble was announced at the Spring performance: Prelude - Cello. 

CMYO debuted a performance through the Paramount Arts Local Roots Series: Music Through the Ages: Russian Expressions.  Alexander Sandor performed the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2, 1st movement with the students.  Local professionals joined in to share-a-stand with the students. 

Online registration was made available and now continues to be the way to register. 

This year's theme was "In the Spirit of Unity"  Fall: The Journey, Winter: Empower, Spring: Continuity. 

CMYO modified its program by adding a pilot ensemble called Prelude - Cello.  This was to be the first of four ensembles that would center on instrumental skill development.  Throughout this year, the board of directors and parent committee had become more organized. 

The program ventured into a new territory by offering a Region-wide mass ensemble event with a major guest artist, Mark Wood.  Apollo High, Tech High, St. John's Prep, Sartell High, Kennedy Community, South Jr. High, and Suzuki Studio were invited to join totaling over 160 students.  With the exception of transportation, the experience was a free event for the schools.  This opportunity was a financial risk for the program.  

CMYO ended the project in the black within $300 of the projected costs.  Total cost with in-kind included was close to $35,000.  The money was raised through a raffle, corporate and individual donors, and a grant of $7,000 from the Central MN Arts Board.  This major event made headlines above the fold in the St. Cloud Times.

2017 year was a very amazing and successful year for the program.  Unfortunately, two grants (fall and spring) unexpectedly did not get approved which was focused towards CMYO's core program needs.  This set the budget back with a liability of a little over $2,000.  It became apparent that a new financial strategy needed to be in place for 2018-2019.

This year's theme is "History in the Making"  Fall: Patriotism, Spring: Heroism. 

The program has started out with a grant that will help fund the Fall performance.  A new Discovery Class has been added to the program.  This class combines two of the ensembles for a discussion about Music History, Music Theory, Ear Training, critical score study, practicing, and student recitals.  This class is integrated as part of the experience and is not a separate registration for the students. 

A typical day for the Encore ensemble is 10am to 11am, Discovery  Class with Intermezzo at 11am to 11:45am, 15 min Break, and a rehearsal from 12pm to 1:30/2 pm.

CMYO now provides a greater need beyond developing and performing in an ensemble.  The program aspires to offer students a well-rounded educational experience in both an orchestral and a class setting. 

With the new challenges a foot, our approach will require its administration to expand.  Up until now, CMYO does not have a paid executive director.  The administration has been operated only on volunteer time. 

Currently, CMYO has seven board of directors, one board advisor, a Director of Development <$1,000/year), a Project Manager (unpaid), and a parent committee that has four members.

The Mission
"To provide a unique orchestral experience leading to performances that shape, educate, and inspire lives of the developing musicians in the communities of Central Minnesota." 
Central Minnesota Youth Orchestra

Our Journey
Students Served
Apollo High School
St. Cloud State University
Ruth Gant Recital Hall
Saint John's University
Great Hall
Chamber Music Society of St. Cloud
Lincoln Trio
Paramount Arts Theater
Root Series: Russian Expressions
St. Cloud State University
Ritstche Auditorium
Mark Wood EYS
College of Saint Benedict
Rehearsal Hall
MN Orchestra Field Trip (40+ attended)
Gil Shaham, Violin Soloist
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
CMYO Field Trip
“This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Central MN Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund."

"To provide a unique orchestral experience leading to performances that shape, educate and inspire lives of developing youth musicians in the communities of Central Minnesota."

"To provide a unique orchestral experience leading to performances that shape, educate and inspire lives of developing youth musicians in the communities of Central Minnesota."