Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras’ mission is to inspire and cultivate personal excellence through music. After more than 75 years of music-making, CYSO continues to shape generations of young leaders and musicians. Students collaborate and create in a learning environment like no other, developing fundamental skills including leadership, self-confidence, teamwork, and resilience. We are committed to educating, encouraging, and empowering each young musician so that they may pursue personal excellence both on and off the stage.
CYSO works with young musicians ages 6-18 in on-site and school-based ensembles, and offers community programming reaching audiences of all ages across the Chicago region. Our ensembles include symphony orchestras, string orchestras, steelpan, jazz band, chamber music, and music composition programs. We invest in our community through CYSO@CPS school-based ensembles and free concerts that reach more than 10,000 young people annually.
CYSO promotes and provides ensemble-focused programming because we believe in the power of community. A young musician’s time at CYSO is a pathway of opportunity and growth, but they do not walk it alone. By bringing together young people from across the region, CYSO students build bonds with those who come from different backgrounds and share a passion for music. They develop the skills necessary to thrive as an ensemble. Whether or not a student continues music studies after their time in CYSO, young people leave with increased self-confidence, a strong sense of discipline, and a deep appreciation for music and the arts.
Equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging are inseparable from musical excellence. We value the unique role and contribution of every musician and recognize that we will only create world-class music when each member of the ensemble can participate to their fullest potential.
CYSO was founded in 1946 by a group of high school musicians from across the Chicago region who came together at a summer music camp. The unique camaraderie and musical excellence they experienced left the new friends so inspired that after returning home, they created an orchestra of their own, then called the Youth Orchestra of Greater Chicago. The student-led organization grew from those original members into a 113-member orchestra made up of students from across the city and suburbs. The group gave their very first performance at Chicago’s renowned Orchestra Hall the very next year. Supported by their families and members of Chicago’s close-knit music community, CYSO has grown from that first class of inspired musicians into the musical home for hundreds of young players. Today with more than 12 ensembles, CYSO musicians continue the legacy of collaboration and excellence as we continue to inspire generations of young musicians.
Get to Know Music Director Allen Tinkham
Allen Tinkham is increasingly recognized as one of the most inspiring and exciting conductors and teachers of his generation. He is hailed by the Chicago Tribune as both a conductor and teacher, described as working “wonders” conducting with “uncanny control” and as one of Chicago’s most important “educators, mentors and inspirational guides in the training of tomorrow’s orchestral professionals.”
Plan Your Visit
CYSO is located in Chicago’s historic Fine Arts Building at 410 S. Michigan Avenue (between Van Buren and Ida B. Wells Drive). Our administrative offices are located in Suite 833.
Accessibility Information for Visitors
• CYSO spaces are accessible to wheelchairs and other mobility devices. CYSO offices are located on the 8th floor and rehearsal spaces are on the 8th and 10th floor. Both floors may be reached by both elevator and stairs.
• There is an accessible, all-gender, single-stall restroom located on the 8th floor.
• A quiet space area is available upon request.
• To request an accommodation for a student or event attendee, please use this form.
• If you have specific accessibility questions, email Karen Mari or call 312-939-2207 ext 250.
Ask the cab driver to take you to 410 S. Michigan. The closest cross streets are Michigan and Ida B. Wells Drive, or Michigan and Van Buren.
The Van Buren Metra station is only a short walk away.
From Union Station (located at Canal and Adams), take CTA bus 60 or 126.
From Ogilvie Transportation Center/Northwestern Station (at Madison and Canal), take CTA bus 20.
Bus lines North – South along Michigan Avenue are 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 20, 56, 60, 147, 151.
126 runs East – West along Jackson to Michigan.
29, 62, 146 and 148 drop off two blocks West on State Street.
CTA Train: el
Take the Brown, Purple, Orange or Green line to the Library El stop for the Fine Arts Building.
Take the Red line to Jackson/State subway stop.
Take the Blue line to Jackson/Dearborn subway stop.
Millennium Garages’ Grant Park South is located at 325 S. Michigan Avenue between Jackson Blvd and Van Buren St. Entrances to the garage are located in the middle of Michigan Avenue while driving both north and southbound.
Receive a discounted rate of $13.50 for up to 12 hours with a CYSO voucher. CYSO families can receive additional discounts. Contact us at 312-939-2207 to get a voucher.
For visitor with mobility needs, please note that this garage is underground and the elevator to street level, which is operated by Metra, is frequently out of service. Visitors can also be dropped off directly in front of our building.
Many other parking garages and lots are also available near the Fine Arts Building. Limited metered parking is also available on Van Buren and Wabash.
CYSO’s preferred hotel is Ace Hotel at 311 N Morgan St. in the Fulton Market neighborhood.