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Elizabeth Quinby is our new Youth Orchestra Programs Manager

Elizabeth Quinby’s involvement with the Great Falls Symphony Association (GFSA) began over 20 years ago. While a student at Great Falls High, she participated as principal cellist in the Great Falls Symphony’s Youth Orchestra. Concurrently, she landed a position in the professional orchestra, performing in both ensembles. After graduating high school, Quinby earned her Bachelors in Music Education at Eastern Washington University and her Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Montana State University. Quinby will be filling the part-time, yet vital role of Youth Orchestra Programs Manager in addition to her current responsibilities as orchestra director at North Middle School.

“As a Youth Orchestra alum myself, I know firsthand the benefits of this program. I believe in giving these young musicians the opportunity for collaboration, socialization, and musical growth through the Youth Orchestra program.” –Elizabeth Quinby

Executive Director Hillary Shepherd says, “I am so excited to be working more closely with Elizabeth again. We were in the same graduating class at Great Falls High and we participated in the Great Falls Youth Orchestra together as well. I am in awe of her dedication to music education and her ability to inspire the young generations to work hard to accomplish difficult challenges through music.”

Music Director Emeritus Gordon Johnson established the Youth Orchestra 25 years ago, and since then it has expanded to include Sinfonia, a middle school string orchestra, and the Youth Chamber Music Program which focuses on individualized coaching sessions for students and small ensemble performances. More than 100 students from across northcentral Montana participate.

“While the orchestra was intended to focus upon musical development, it has proven to be much more … members have gone on to distinguish themselves in a variety of careers, including music! Using musical involvement as a metaphor for excellence, we have been able to maintain a forum in which young adults can develop their social skills, citizenship, musical expertise, and have fun while doing so.”
–Gordon Johnson

Gordon Johnson directed the Youth Orchestra for 20 years before passing the baton to Music Director Grant Harville. Hillary Shepherd says, “I remember my time in Youth Orchestra with fondness—not only because of the high level of the musicianship in the ensemble, but also because Gordon Johnson was our director. He treated us like his professional group, and he expected that we always show up well-prepared and ready to learn. That experience has shaped me for the rest of my life. I’m so pleased to see that Grant Harville is continuing in Gordon’s footsteps by conducting our Youth Orchestra in addition to his responsibilities as Music Director, because I know that the experience will be unforgettable for the students.”

DID YOU KNOW ... The Great Falls Symphony Association is the only symphony organization in Montana that has a youth orchestra program under its umbrella. Education is one of the strategic anchors of the GFSA. The Symphony places a strong emphasis on youth programs because we believe it makes the community stronger. Because GFSA believes that their programs should be accessible for all, a large number of music lesson scholarships and tuition fee waivers are available for students who demonstrate a financial need. The organization also believes in maintaining a strong collaborative relationship with the Great Falls Public Schools in order to continue to strengthen music education in the Great Falls community as a whole.

Learn more about our Youth Orchestra by visiting our website at


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