Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra to be honored by White House

Group will recieve national award

The Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO) is receiving a very high-honor from the White House Tuesday.

Michelle Obama will be presenting MYSO with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award - the nation's highest honor for out-of-school arts and humanities programs.

The award is given to programs that celebrate the creativity of America's young people, particularly those from underserved communities.

Malik Johnson,16, will be traveling to Washington, D.C. to accept the award.

"It still hasn't hit me yet," he says. "I can't believe I'm going to be at the White House!"

Malik started playing the cello in the third grade, after never touching an instrument before. Malik lives in Milwaukee's inner city, and was brought to MYSO through its community outreach program known as Progressions. 

"My second-grade teacher referred me to MYSO," he says. "I didn't even know what it was. I wouldn't be in music at all if it weren't for MYSO. They've done a lot of things to change kids' lives. I've been really blessed."

Malik says learning to play an instrument through MYSO has kept him busy and out of trouble. He's planning to go to college, and make a career out of music.

"MYSO has introduced me to so many great people," he says. "I've gotten to travel to play music. It's fun for me. It's more than just playing notes on an instrument. It's a connection to others."

He's one of dozens of kids from underprivileged neighborhoods that are part of MYSO.

"When I heard the older kids play, I knew I had to do it," says Anastacia Tunson, 9. "It makes me happy that I was one of the kids that got into this program."

Anastacia is learning to play the viola. She practices every night after school.

"I love it," she says. "It's a great way to make friends, and it's a feeling of accomplishment. To feel that you are really completing something, and getting better."

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