CYSO’s mission is to inspire and cultivate personal excellence through music.
Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras has provided music education through orchestral programs and performance opportunities of the highest caliber since 1946.
CYSO serves more than 600 students ages 6-18 through four full orchestras, three string orchestras, jazz orchestra, multiple steel orchestras, and supplemental programs including chamber music ensembles, masterclasses, and music composition seminar. CYSO musicians receive superb orchestral and chamber music instruction from Chicago’s most respected professional musicians, perform in the world’s greatest concert halls, and gain the self-confidence and discipline necessary for a successful future.
CYSO’s Community Engagement Programs connect with the Chicago community and bring music directly to students who need it most. We engage students in underserved neighborhoods through our Neighborhood Steel Band Program, provide free masterclasses, partner with other Chicago institutions including Chicago Public Schools and The People’s Music School, present community and education concerts, and donate free tickets to our Orchestra Hall concerts to local non-profits and music schools. Through these components, CYSO Community Engagement Programs inspire and cultivate personal excellence by supporting instrumental music training and music access among thousands of Chicago youth.
100% of CYSO graduates pursue college studies, often at the most prestigious universities and conservatories in the nation. Students go on to become professional musicians in the world’s finest orchestras and music ensembles, and are also found working as teachers, community leaders, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and business professionals. Most importantly, whether or not students continue their music studies after high school, they leave with a strong sense of discipline, increased confidence, and a deep appreciation for music and the arts.
CYSO is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization investing in the future of music and the next generation of leaders.
CYSO was founded in 1946 by a group of parents whose children–energized by a summer music camp–wanted to explore music closer to home throughout the school year. Students first met on Saturday mornings at the Wurlitzer Music Store on South Wabash Avenue, and in November 1947, 100 young musicians held the first performance at Orchestra Hall, featuring a program of Frescobaldi, Beethoven, MacDowell, and Kodaly. In 1960, CYSO moved to our current home in the historic Fine Arts Building, a center for arts and culture since 1898. Over the past 70 years, CYSO has earned local and national awards, partnered with some of the most prestigious artists and organizations, and continues the legacy of musicianship on which the organization was founded.
Staff and Board
CYSO’s staff, faculty and board members represents a diverse array of talents and skills in music education.
CYSO administrative offices are located in Suite 833 of the Fine Arts Building at 410 S. Michigan Avenue on Chicago’s Cultural Mile. Rehearsals, auditions, and some performances take place in the Fine Arts Building, with premier performances held at prestigious venues across the Chicago region, including Symphony Center’s Orchestra Hall. Plan your visit to CYSO.