The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras in Madison are losing an incredibly gifted conductor, who gave the young musicians in those orchestras completely new perspectives. After 31 years as the Music Director of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, James Smith will be retiring at the end of WYSO’s 51st season. James Smith took over as Music Director in 1985. His gift for enabling students to give their very best in rehearsal, week after week, year after year, has contributed to their personal growth and the musical success of the orchestra. 

In 1985, the year Jim was hired, WYSO consisted of three orchestras and a Percussion Ensemble. Jim oversaw the evolution of WYSO as it added a Brass Ensemble, Harp Choir, Chamber Music Program, the Sinfonietta string orchestra, and the Opus One preparatory string orchestra. Under his baton he conducted nearly 400 students in the finale of WYSO’s 50th Anniversary Concert at the Overture Center last year.

His leadership was instrumental in taking the Youth Orchestra on their first international tour in 1989 to the British Isles.

Since then he has conducted the Youth Orchestra on tour in Taiwan, Japan, Washington DC, France, Spain, Banff, British Columbia, Canada, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Argentina, and Italy. Because of the success of these tours WYSO is committed to touring internationally every two years.

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