“Our youth need the opportunity to explore their talents and creativity. Music is known to heal the soul and creating music heals the mind as well.” – Michael D. Byrd, Assistant Superintendent of Programs, Illinois Youth Center at Chicago

Music can transform lives. 

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s partnerships with youth prisons blend the musical resources of the CSO with the expertise of world leaders in narrative art therapy. Each season, musicians of the CSO and Civic Orchestra hold multiple residencies at local medium and maximum security prisons for young adults. While there, CSO project teams co-create original songs, from musicals to hip-hop, with the youth residents as a part of the rehabilitation process. These songs are based on real-life experiences and act as a creative outlet for the youth.

Launched by Riccardo Muti, musical projects for incarcerated youth engage young people in the care of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.

Each season, Maestro Muti visits an Illinois Youth Center to present an interactive recital alongside guest opera singers and CSO musicians. Additionally, site-specific projects are developed and implemented by the Institute in partnership with specialists in the field of youth development and juvenile justice. With participation by musicians of the CSO and Civic Orchestra, projects reach young people at Illinois Youth Centers in Chicago and Warrenville. Select participants take fieldtrips to Symphony Center for concerts and open rehearsals. Projects are presented in partnership with The Irene Taylor Trust: Music in Prisons, Storycatchers Theatre and numerous guest teaching artists.


This program is generously sponsored by the James and Madeleine McMullan Family Foundation

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