The Flint Youth Symphony Orchestra (FYSO) is going abroad! A tradition of partnering with “sister” orchestras and participating in international exchanges officially began in 1990,
but the program was put on hold in 2020 with the onset of COVID-19.

“We are so excited this is finally happening again,” says Davin Pierson Torre, vice president of performing arts instruction, director of Flint School of Performing Arts and conductor of FYSO.

After a long hiatus from international travel, FYSO is making up for lost time with its longest tour to date and the greatest participation from musicians. Forty of the youth orchestra students will spend two weeks abroad in June and July, which will begin with five days in Germany. There, they will perform in at least two concerts with the Ahrensberg Youth Orchestra, whose first visit to FSPA last October wrapped up with an outstanding performance at Whiting Auditorium.

Next, FYSO will say auf Wiedersehen to the Germans and bonjour to the city of Lyon, France. They’ll spend a week with the Limonest Youth Orchestra who has partnered in an exchange program with FYSO for 15 years. The French musicians visited Flint last July to celebrate Independence Day at FIM, and this year the orchestras will perform three concerts in Lyon together.

While abroad, musicians and their chaperones will stay with host families who will act as chauffeurs and tour guides. Not only does this system lower expenses for the trip, but it nurtures the relationships between orchestras, gives musicians an immersive experience and builds friendships and memories that will last long into the future.

Chris Hall can attest to this firsthand. Now a band director in Goodrich and conductor of the Flint Youth Wind Ensemble at FSPA, he was a member of the Flint Youth Symphony on one of the first cultural exchanges to Paris in 1990.
“I mention the trip to my students all the time,” says Hall, who teaches middle schoolers. “I tell them that playing music lets you go incredible places and do amazing things.” In his first year with FYSO, before he had the opportunity to go abroad himself, his family hosted two Japanese exchange students through the FSPA cultural exchange. He recalls the impact of that experience, which culminated in a joint performance of FYSO and the Japanese youth orchestra at Whiting Auditorium. “We played Beethoven’s ninth [symphony],” remembers Hall.

“It was incredible.”

This year, as FYSO returns to touring, Hall will once again feel the impact of this special opportunity; this time, through the eyes of his daughter. Sydney Hall is a senior in FYSO and will make her first international tour during her last (and only) year with the ensemble.

“My dad has always been trying to convince me to do this,” Sydney says of traveling with an ensemble. “He told me it’s so cool, and so fun, and I have to go abroad.”

Hall, who also had the opportunity to travel to Germany with Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in high school, says he and Sydney have been discussing some of the cultural differences between Germany and France as she prepares to visit both this summer. “But it was such a long time ago for me — it was a whole different world back then!” he says.

Sydney, who has been playing viola since fifth grade but usually too busy with soccer to join an FSPA ensemble, was finally able to join FYSO in December of 2023 — just in the nick of time to travel abroad with the group — and her dad’s enthusiasm is catching.

“I never thought I’d be able to travel with viola,” she says. “Being able to go to Europe is amazing, and to play music while I’m there is really cool. Especially as a senior when I’m nearing the end of my time in organized groups like this. It’ll be a memory that I can always have.”

Of course, it is no small expense to travel abroad for two weeks, even with the help of host families who reduce the cost of housing, food and transportation. But thanks to the help of some very generous donors, half of the cost of the trip will be covered for each student. Hall acknowledged that this was a large part of why Sydney was able to attend the trip this year. “When we found out that half the cost would be covered by a sponsor, we knew she couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” he says. “And I’m so excited she gets to have this really cool experience, especially right before she heads off to college.”

FIM expresses thanks for the generosity of all our donors who make invaluable experiences like this possible, and we wish very safe and happy travels to FYSO on their tour.

How to support the FYSO Fund

The Flint Youth Symphony Orchestra Fund supports orchestra activities and enables full participation of all members regardless of their ability to pay. The Fund provides financial assistance to help support the cost of performance attire, instruments and concert tour travel.

For questions about the fund or to donate, contact Robert Benish at or 810.237.3111.