The Guild and Music Education in Decatur, Illinois
Music education is vital to the future of symphonic music, hence, the strong emphasis the Symphony Orchestra Guild of Decatur (SOGD) gives in its mission statement to supplementing music education in Decatur, Illinois and area schools.
Decatur Youth Symphony Orchestra
The Decatur Youth Symphony Orchestra Jr. and Sr. are sponsored by the Symphony Orchestra Guild of Decatur, Millikin University, and the Decatur Public Schools District #61. The DYSO is an organization that offers a full orchestral experience to talented area students in grades 6-12. The Decatur Youth Symphony Orchestra’s (DYSO) reputation has been one of excellence throughout its 21 years of existence. Concerts occur each semester, and afford students an advance performance opportunity. Instruction in chamber ensembles is also part of the DYSO experience. Auditions are held annually in September. Rehearsals take place on Monday evenings at Kirkland Fine Arts Center (5:15pm to 6:45pm for Sr. DYSO and 5:15pm-6:15pm for DYSO Jr. Tuition is $50 per semester (scholarships available). Contact person: Dr. Neal Smith, 424-6300.
Instrument Petting Zoos
The Symphony Orchestra Guild of Decatur sponsors instrument petting zoos at local schools for 4th and 5th graders. The goal is to introduce beginners to various types of instruments—to allow them to hold and even play a sound on the instrument. Local musicians help the children at these events. Questionnaires are completed by the children following the petting zoos, and over 86% of the children participating indicate they want to study an instrument in school.
Do You Have An Instrument to Donate to the Instrument Library?
Research has proven that children who study music via an instrument are likely to enhance their academic successes in school. Instruments donations to the library are always welcomed.
The Symphony Orchestra Guild of Decatur (SOGD) and the Decatur Public Schools Foundation (DPSF) in Decatur, Illinois, are partners in providing an Instrument Library for children in Decatur schools, grades 4-6. The Sympnony Orchestra Guild of Decatur is partenering with the Decatur Public Schools in sponsoring a “Give the Gift of Music” instrument drive.
Instruments that are in particular need include flutes, clarinets, violins and cellos. However, all instruments will be accepted.
Qualified children can check out a “loaner” instrument from the DPSF to take music lessons in school.
The instrument library was created by instrument donations from community individuals as well as grants from the Symphony Orchestra Guild of Decatur and the Decatur Public Schools Foundation. Over 180 musical instruments are currently “on loan” to music students in Decatur, Illinois for the past 5 years. There was a waiting list of students who want to study music and were turned away because of lack of instruments.
For more information about the Instrument Library or to donate an instrument please contact:
Decatur Public Schools Foundation Executive Director
To donate an instrument, contact
For pick up or to drop off instruments at the following locations:
Decatur Area Arts Council
Thompson Kramer Music Store
Decatur Public Schools Foundation, Kiel Building
The Symphony Orchestra Guild of Decatur is a 501(c)3 organization.
Your donations may be tax deductible within the limits of the law.
Live Performances in Schools
The Symphony Orchestra Guild funds “live” performances by outstanding professional ensembles throughout the school year for area schools and senior centers.
Such performances have included:
- The Millikin Brass and Woodwind Quintets
- The Millikin Flute Ensemble
- The Millikin Percussion Ensemble
- The University of Illinois Gamelan Ensemble
- The University of Illinois African Drumming Ensemble
- Harpists Nina Marshall and Julia Jamieson
- The ISU Sonneries Woodwind Ensemble
- Jim Walker (clarinet) & Karen Neece (piano)
- The Dixie Daredevils
- The Downstate Strings
- The Symphony Orchestra Guild Trio
- The Decatur Youth Symphony Student Chamber Ensembles
Students are not only exposed to the sight and sounds of the different ensemble instruments but they hear different types of music repertoire. To schedule a performance contact:
Performance Chair, Symphony Orchestra Guild of Decatur
The Guild Mentor Program
The Symphony Orchestra Guild of Decatur also sponsors master classes by music professionals for students in area schools. Developing young musicians have the chance to learn playing techniques and skills in small group lessons. Music teachers can contact education committee member, Marilyn Mertz, 217-429-0992 to schedule sessions.
Decatur Youth Symphony PASS Concert for Third Graders
Each year the Symphony Guild of Decatur funds bus transportation to allow all of District 61 third and fourth graders to attend a performance of instrumental music during a Performing Arts Student Series (PASS) concert at Kirkland Fine Arts Center. The Decatur Area Arts Council provides free tickets to the event. Third and fourth graders are acquainted with the various orchestral instruments both in sight and sound, and they are encouraged to study an instrument in school when they reach the 4th (strings) and 5th (band) grade levels.
Symphony Orchestra Guild Music Scholarships
Music scholarships for private lessons and summer music camps are awarded by auditions each year to talented students in grades 5-11 residing in Macon County. Students who are members of the DYSO Jr. and Sr. are also eligible to audition. During the 2015 auditions, eleven first year private music lesson scholarships and seven music camp scholarships will be awarded. The private music lesson scholarships occur with Millikin University faculty, and the music camp scholarships can be used at any national music camp. Auditions occur in March of each year. Through these scholarships the lives of our promising young musicians become richer. In return, the recipients help to ensure the continuance of symphonic music in the future.
The Need for Music Education
All too often in today’s schools, the music education curriculum is either eliminated or reduced during budget cuts. Yet, many administrators do not realize the power of music in the lives of children. Research has shown that students who participate in instrumental music:
- Enhance their academic skills in math, science, and language arts
- Get higher marks in standardized tests than those who have no music involvement regardless of socioeconomic background
Music training also helps under-achievers; strengthens the links between brain neurons; and builds new spatial reasoning. Music education also improves a student’s self-discipline, dexterity, coordination, self-confidence, self-esteem, thinking and listening skills, creative abilities, and personal expression.
In today’s technological world, there is a great need for school administrators to understand that everybody needs music—that no child should be left behind musically.
The Symphony Orchestra Guild is a crusader in helping area schools expose children to music education by funding:
- Live performances in the schools
- Mentor programs
- Instrument petting zoos
- The Instrument Loaner Library
- Instrumental PASS Concerts
- Private lesson and summer camp scholarships
- The Youth Symphony Orchestra Jr. and Sr.
Supplementing music education in the Decatur community is a large part of the Symphony Guild of Decatur’s mission, and is of great importance to the survival of future symphonic music and audiences.