Matthew Sheppard

Matthew Sheppard's Fundraiser

Donate to NOTES 2023 today! image

Donate to NOTES 2023 today!

By supporting the NOTES campaign, YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!

We are no longer accepting donations on this campaign, but there are other ways for you to support us today!

$1,250 towards $1,000

Hi friends and family,

For seven years, I've been a part of Elgin Youth Symphony, first as associate conductor of the top-level Youth Symphony, and now as artistic director of the program. One of the innovative things we do at EYSO is the annual NOTES campaign. I'm going to tell you about the fundraiser--what it is, what it isn't, and why that's cool. But first, I want to tell you about EYSO and Youth Symphony.


I'm lucky to work with lots of different musicians: young musicians, veterans, and those just starting out. And I can tell you, unequivocally, that what these students do at EYSO week after week is rare and wonderful. Joyfully, they meet week after week, working hard, delving deeply into music and art, and growing both as musicians and as people. They are inquisitive, curious, and hard-working, and they inspire me day after day with their wholehearted commitment to what they do--whatever it might be, and whatever we might be studying.

And boy oh boy, do they do it well. Their performances, the tip of the iceberg of their EYSO experience, are truly exceptional. They perform at a high level of artistry, playing professional level repertoire like Respighi's Pines of Rome, Elgar's Enigma Variations, Bernstein's Candide Overture, and more. They even tackle new pieces--ones written within the past few years, like Tidal Rhythms by Martha Horst, which they explored with a visit from the composer herself. (And they sounded GREAT.)

Want to hear them in action? Check out this recording from our very recent concert on March 12th to hear them.


It isn't selling candy. Or poinsettias. Or pizza. Not that candy, poinsettias, and pizza aren't cool...but this is cool exactly because it isn't a sale. In fact, nobody sells anything in a "traditional" fundraising sense all year. This is the one and only fundraiser the students participate in.

Participation is just as important as the dollar amount. That doesn't mean the dollar amount isn't important--the goal is $54,500 this year, which is around 5% of our budget. So yeah, it matters. But the participation is where the real reward is. Because kids learn to support things they care about. And to put their money where their beliefs are. And that speaking up for things makes a difference. Last year, the Youth Symphony had an 87% participation rate...which is right on target with their annual average. And it's not mandatory--just expected.


Teaching kids about our society matters. At the end of our campaign kick-off meetings in which students learn about NOTES, I shared this with the students: although for them, asking adults for money (not in exchange for goods) feels weird, it's just something that all adults are used to. We get these asks regularly, and frankly, if it comes from a kid, it makes us think "wow, this really must be important--and I'm so glad to see a young person engaged and caring!" That's why participation matters as much as dollar amount. Because although not everyone has wealthy relatives, everyone can put their time and money where they care.

Paying back into society matters. And not every kid gets to see that in action at a young age--and that, really, is why I think this campaign, and this organization matters. Because kids learn about music at the highest level...and they also learn how to think, how to approach life, and how to be empathetic people. We need that.


Moment of honesty: if you've taken the time to read this, you probably know why this matters already. The most convincing, powerful argument that I can imagine comes straight from the students--but not just their playing and artistry (which is truly stupendous), but from what they wrote. I hope you'll take a moment to read some of the student testimonials in their own NOTES fundraisers pages that you can access via this site. It guarantee you'll leave with a sense of optimism and hope for the future, seeing what these amazing teenagers are saying.


Any dollar amount helps offset the cost of tuition and programming for these students. Our campaign ends March 26th.

Will you donate to EYSO?

With gratitude,