Elizabeth (Liz) Youker is Director of Education & Community Engagement for the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, the third-largest orchestra in the state of Michigan. Ms. Youker joined the staff of the KSO in 2003 as Education Assistant.
Ms. Youker oversees a wide variety of initiatives ranging from school and family programming to large-scale partnerships designed to increase access and dismantle barriers to arts learning. Ms. Youker led the development of Kalamazoo Kids in Tune, an El Sistema-inspired afterschool program that launched in 2011, and Orchestra Rouh, an ensemble serving children of recently resettled refugee families, in 2017. She supported the formation of KSO’s Marvelous Music preschool partnership, launched in 2010, which supports kindergarten readiness through music. Ms. Youker represents KSO within Kalamazoo’s TRHT (Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation) initiative through the Narrative Change-Arts design team and leads the development of opportunities for staff, musicians and board members to engage in learning around institutional anti-racism, identity and inclusiveness.
Ms. Youker earned degrees in cello performance from the University of Kansas with Edward Laut (BM) and University of Akron with Michael Haber (MM), both Janos Starker proteges. She holds an MFA in Performing Arts Administration from Western Michigan University. She is the cellist of the Bahar Ensemble, which specializes in Middle Eastern music, and regularly performs chamber music with the Arcadia Consort and other community ensembles. She and her husband Brandon Youker are the proud parents of three children.