Interview and Photos by Jan Osborn.
The Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra (GDYO), a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, was founded in 1972 by a group of parents, educators, and musicians who valued music education and the outcomes it could provide. The program cultivates learning and creativity, as well as social and motivational skills in over 465 talented young musicians, performing in nine ensembles. GDYO musicians socialize with a diverse group of highly talented peers from over 50 communities in the Metroplex, as well as interacting with professionals from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Dallas Wind Symphony and multiple other local music ensembles.
GDYO is proud to partner with Dallas ISD through its Music Capacity Building Program that places its organization’s top talent in more than 20 Dallas ISD schools. This program has had a monumental impact on Dallas ISD programs, turning around test scores, and in return thus saving public schools’ music programs. As a greater need was continued to be seen for the program, it was vital that the program be expanded, and it continues to grow today as GDYO directors customize plans to improve Dallas ISD bands and orchestras. Through this program, GDYO has been able to impact the lives of more than 4K students participating in Dallas ISD music programs.
Recently, Dallas Doing Good sat down with GDYO’s Executive Director Cathy Hernandez to understand what makes the organization so special.
The Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra (gdyO) is celebrating their fiftieth anniversary this year. can you tell us about gdyO?
The Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra is one of the leading youth orchestras in the country. We were founded in 1972 as a non-profit organization dedicated to providing music education and performance opportunities for musically talented youth. During the past 50 years, we’ve grown from a single orchestra of 35 members to a program of over 450 talented musicians, ages 8-18, performing in nine ensembles and socializing with a diverse group of highly talented peers from more than 50 communities. Since our founding, GDYO impacted the lives of more than 10,000 North Texas youth musicians. And, we’ve become one of the leading youth orchestra feeders for the National Youth Orchestra.
2022 is a very special year to our organization because this year, GDYO is celebrating our special 50th anniversary. We believe this is a true milestone for our organization and it has been a meaningful time to reflect on the impact our program has had on youth musicians across the region. It’s also our Music Director Richard Giangiulio’s 40th anniversary. So, there’s lots to celebrate in 2022!
GDYO provides a variety of programminG opportunities and various ensembles. tell us more about what GDYO offers.
Our current ensemble offerings include: the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra, Philharmonic, Sinfonietta, Dallas String Ensemble, Young Performers Orchestra, Wind Symphony, Flute Choir, and GDYO Jazz that features a jazz orchestra and jazz combo program.
In addition to our ensembles, we offer a variety of enrichment opportunities for our student musicians. Through these opportunities, the GDYO program cultivates learning, creative social and motivational skills. We have multiple community partnerships like the Dallas Symphony Orchestra to provide exposure and guidance to the students.
we understand that you have a personal connection to GDYO. How did you first hear about gdyo and how did it inspire your career choice today?
Yes! As a child growing up in North Texas, I actually was a member of GDYO myself. After growing my career in nonprofit management with a variety of organizations over the decades, it has been an incredibly special experience to be able to come back and work for GDYO, where so much of my passion for music was cultivated.
gdyo recently launched a partnership with Dallas ISD. How will this endeavor enhance each of your programs?
When I joined the GDYO team, one of my priorities was expanding our community outreach. One key way we have done this is through the launch of our Music Capacity Building Program with Dallas ISD. We started to learn that many Dallas ISD music programs wanting to improve their scores through UIL testing and competition, so we are focused on improving those scores and in doing so, we are improving the quality of school music programs, generally.
Through this program, we place our top talent, such as our conductors, in more than 20 Dallas ISD schools. When our conductors started entering the schools and meeting with orchestras, we realized the need for not only talent and resources, but also the need for customized plans for these orchestras to improve UIL test scores and ensure continued improvement for years to come. We are so proud that this program has had a monumental impact on Dallas ISD programs in a short period of time, turning around test scores and in return thus growing schools’ music programs by combining coaches and resources with the Dallas ISD. As a greater need was continued to be seen for the program, it was vital that it be expanded, and it continues to grow today as GDYO directors customize plans to improve Dallas ISD bands and orchestras. Through this program, GDYO has been able to impact the lives of more than 4K students participating in Dallas ISD music programs.
And, in fact, GDYO’s partnership with Dallas ISD has been such a success that it has expanded beyond our initial outreach. GDYO produced its first summer camp with Dallas ISD in Sumer 2021, providing a free, virtual camp for 50 youth string musicians as just one example.
There are so many great things going on with GDYO! How can our readers get involved?
Auditions just closed for the season and we will be excited to notify the musicians who were accepted to GDYO this summer. Rehearsals for the upcoming season begin at the end of August 2022. Something I specifically want to call-out is we are committed to providing musical experiences to young people throughout the area regardless of their financial situation. While participation in GDYO is tuition-based, the organization has a long-standing commitment to making its programs available to all qualified musicians. GDYO offers an extensive scholarship program, offered to students upon acceptance to the program and not factored into the acceptance process, as GDYO’s goal is to ensure that all students who are offered positions are able to participate. Approximately 20 percent of GDYO musicians receive scholarships, and scholarships are based on need. No student will be denied an opportunity to participate because of financial need.
Additionally, we have our 50th Anniversary Gala coming up on May 15, 2022 at 6:30 p.m. at the Meyerson Symphony Center to help raise needed funds for these scholarships. This special 50th anniversary is a true milestone for the organization as it reflects on the impact it has had on youth musicians across the region. As well, it is Music Director Richard Giangiulio’s 40th anniversary. The organization provides challenging musical opportunities for special young musicians from 50 different communities and more than 120 different schools. GDYO musicians socialize with a diverse group of highly talented peers, as well as interact with professionals from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Dallas Wind Symphony and multiple other local music ensembles. GDYO is one of the leading youth orchestra feeders for the National Youth Orchestra.
For more information about the organization, please visit www.gdyo.org.