One of the big universal concerns among orchestras is the so-called graying of the classical music audience — the theory that younger audiences are not stepping in to take the place of older audiences at the symphony hall.

We can spend all day debating why that is — from the "old" repertoire and young people's perceived stodginess of classical music to the high cost of tickets — and we will still find ourselves staring at empty seats and gray heads at Tucson Music Hall when the Tucson Symphony Orchestra kicks off its 2016-17 season on Sept. 23.

Which is why the TSO and the Marshall Foundation's newly announced TEAMtix effort to introduce young audiences to the classical music concert experience is so exciting.

This season, the orchestra and foundation are providing free concert tickets to middle and high school music students (band, orchestra and choir) for Classics and MasterWorks series concerts. 

Students who sign up for TEAMtix — click here — can get a student ticket for themselves and a companion ticket, presumably for a parent or guardian. 

The program is open to students in the Amphi, Ajo, Catalina Foothills, Marana, Oracle, Sahuarita, Sunnyside, Tucson Unified and Vail school districts, as well as students attending private and charter schools and members of the Tucson Junior Strings, Tucson Philharmonia Youth Orchestra, the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and the Tucson Girls Chorus.

Registration is free and the school with the most students registered by Sept. 15 will win $500 for its music program.

TEAMtix tickets are good for all Classics series performances at Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave., or Friday night MasterWorks concerts at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Oro Valley.

The TSO, under the baton of newly named music director José Luis Gomez, opens the season Sept. 23 with "Gershwin," featuring the American composer's "Cuban" Overture and "An American in Paris." Ravel's Piano Concerto in G, featuring pianist and Van Cliburn silver medal winner Joyce Yang, and the TSO premiere of Villa-Lobos's Chôros No. 6 rounds out the program.

Click here for the complete season schedule.

TSO has seven music education programs including its nationally touted Young Composers Project. Last year, the TSO provided music education to more than 40,000 students, according to orchestra officials.

The Marshall Foundation, founded in 1930, supports charitable organizations that are involved in education, health and youth projects and services, according to the foundation's website. The foundation places extra emphasis on organizations that work with youths.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch