Claire Despres Oppenheimclaire

The Hyde Park Youth Symphony has its antecedents in the 1950s when the living room of Claire Despres Oppenheim (pictured here) became too small to contain the chamber ensemble of her string students. Claire, a Hyde Park resident for most of her life, began teaching string and piano lessons in the neighborhood during the 1940s. In October of 1955, Claire and a group of interested Hyde Park parents started the Children’s Symphony Orchestra of Chicago, directed by Charles R. Buckley.

Always eager to give her students the best possible ensemble experiences, Claire Oppenheim founded two additional groups. First, the Hyde Park Youth Chamber Orchestra (founded in 1971) was formally incorporated in 1978. She launched a third group, the Youth String Sinfonia, in 1982. These two groups merged in 1984 to form the Hyde Park Youth Sinfonia. ‘Sinfonia’ was changed to ‘Symphony’ in 1995, a year after Claire’s death at the age of 84.

The Hyde Park Youth Symphony (HPYS) is a community-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a high-quality arts experience to youth on the south side of Chicago and nurturing in them a love for music that will last a lifetime. The Symphony serves a broad range of young people and families, from a variety of public, private, and home school programs, and from a diversity of racial, ethnic, educational, and economic backgrounds.

This season, the Symphony celebrates over 60 years of music making. The Symphony proudly provides a truly unique experience for student musicians in their early years from grades two to twelve. Join the HPYS as a member family providing your child with a musical opportunity that builds on and extends the learning of the private and school instruction of your son or daughter taking it to the next level. The HPYS experience allows student musicians to perform in an orchestral group setting with their peers while the challenge of chamber ensembles hones their musical abilities in a smaller group setting.

As a music organization committed to the arts and maintaining such options for our children we hope you will consider joining the HPYS family through membership, attending our concerts and or as a supporter of our mission. We hope to see you soon.


The Hyde Park Youth Symphony brings together diverse students from the south side of Chicago and beyond to provide a high-quality musical performance experience and education as a training ground for the next generation of performers, educators, and advocates of music and the arts.


The Hyde Park Youth Symphony will be the premier south side orchestral performance organization, supported by families and communities from Chicago’s South Side and known for its excellence in providing a training experience. Joining together to perform and grow as musicians, HPYS students from a diversity of racial, ethnic, educational, and economic backgrounds will gain a sense of civic pride through their achievements in music and will develop a love of music to last a lifetime.