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Downers Grove

Youth Symphony of DuPage celebrates 50th year

The musicians in the Youth Symphony of DuPage are regularly accompanied by professional musicians and other guest adults, but at the organization's 50th anniversary concert this month, they will play a piece incorporating sounds much older.

For the special anniversary concert, the symphony will play with a recent recording of 2,400-year-old Chinese bronze bells. The orchestral piece was written by Chinese composer Tan Dun, and will be conducted by the youth symphony's conductor of more than 30 years, Meng-Kong Tham.

Drawing more than 140 musicians between the ages of 10 and 18 from across the county, the Youth Symphony of DuPage has challenged talented youth musicians in DuPage County since its founding in 1963.

Former Youth Symphony of DuPage President and current board secretary Jo Ann Foss joined the board in the '80s when her two children were accepted into the orchestra.

"I wished I had something like that when I was that age," said Foss, a Downers Grove native and current Glen Ellyn resident. "And I didn't, and therefore I wanted other kids to have that opportunity. It gives the kids more difficult music. It's still on their level – actually some of it's above their level. Mr. Tham is good about bringing them up to a pretty high standard."

In the group, her daughter Pam played bassoon and her son Fritz played French horn, as he does now professionally with the Lyric Opera.

The organization has two different groups depending on skill level. The Concert Orchestra is for the intermediate musicans and the Symphony Orchestra is for the more advanced. The Symphony Orchestra regularly plays music written for adult musicians at its regular concerts at the Wentz Concert Hall.

"When kids have an open mind about what they can do, they can do it," she said.

That was certainly true for Lisle 12-year-old Lydia Walquist.

The seventh-grader was accepted into the Youth Symphony of DuPage last year after playing the flute for less than 12 months. It helped that she had a background in piano, and that her mom, Grace Walquist, helped to teach her.

The Youth Symphony of DuPage "brought her to a whole new level," Grace Walquist said.

"Going into this orchestra has put her into a whole new caliber and experience. Musically, it challenged her almost like three levels up."

If you go

What: Youth Symphony of DuPage Winter Concert

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14

Where: Wentz Concert Hall, Naperville

Cost: $10

For more: Visit

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