Rabin Youth Arts Awards

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras awarded the first Rabin Youth Arts Awards in 2001 in honor of their founding conductor, Dr. Marvin Rabin.  Dr. Rabin was well known for his international stature as a music educator and a researcher of youth and the arts.  Dr. Rabin founded three youth orchestra programs; Kentucky, Greater Boston and Wisconsin.  He was a vigorous spokesperson for society’s need to recognize the positive and creative accomplishments of young people, as well as individuals and organizations that support these artistic efforts.  The prestigious Rabin Youth Arts Awards continue the legacy of Dr. Rabin’s life-long mission.    Read Dr. Rabin’s full bio here.

Rabin Youth Arts Awards Nominations are sought statewide from all artistic disciplines…music, dance, theater and visual arts and are presented for:

Artistic Achievement – recognizing an individual or organization who has made a significant contribution in areas such as teaching, program development, leadership in youth performance and/or presentation to youth audiences.

Philanthropic  Achievement – recognizing an individual or organization for significant monetary or in-kind support of youth arts initiatives, including both sustained support and exceptional one time or ongoing projects

Rabin Youth Arts Awards are presented annually in March, as part of Arts Wisconsin’s Arts Day event in Madison. If you would

2016 Rabin Youth Arts Awards Recipients

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) Board of Directors is pleased to announce the 2016 Rabin Youth Arts Awards recipient.

For 31 years, James Smith has served as the Music Director of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras and Conductor of WYSO Youth Orchestra. James Smith took over as Music Director in 1985, taking over for outgoing Music Director David Nelson. Since his first downbeat James has helped to grow and expand WYSO into the program it is today.

Jim came to UW-Madison as a professor of conducting in 1983, having already achieved national recognition as a clarinetist. Two years later he would take over as Music Director for WYSO. 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.

During his tenure several WYSO outreach programs and partnership concerts were implemented. The WYSO Chamber Ambassadors program was established in 1995, the bi-annual Side-by-Side Concert with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra started in 2008, the Concert in the Park sponsored by the Gialamas Co. featuring Youth Orchestra premiered in 2009, the Music Makers Mentorship Program began in 2011, the NBC15 Sounds of the Season TV broadcast began in 2013, and the Music Makers Honors and Honors Too ensembles formed in 2015.

In 2015, the board of directors established the James R. Smith Guest Artist Fund, in honor of his 30 years of dedication to WYSO. The purpose of this fund is to enrich artistic experiences for young musicians by giving them the opportunity to interact and work with experienced professional musicians.

Maestro Smith has given his best for every second of every rehearsal and every concert. He’s touched thousands of lives with his dedication to his students and his craft.


Read more about the 2016 Rabin Youth Arts Award winners and past winners here

Past recipients of the award include: Harv Thompson, American Players Theater, Diane Ballweg, Andrew Sewell, Michael George, Madison Jazz Society, Northwesten Mutual, Bonnie Greene, Dr. Dayle Quigley, Don Hunt, Marian Bolz, Leotha Stanley, Richard and Anne DiPrima (Young Shakespeare Players), William T. Graham Youth Arts Awards Program, Carrel Prey, Teddy Studt, Ginny Moore Kruse, Opera for the Young, Diane Robinson, Pleasant Company, Thomas Buchhauser, American Family Insurance

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