Jazz Orchestra is open to high school-age students. No prior jazz experience is required, but students should have instrumental experience and know how to read music. Auditions happen each spring, with additional recruiting in the summer if spots need to be filled.

Auditions registration for our 22/23 season has now closed. Occasionally spots with open up through the summer. If you would like to be considered for any open positions, please click the button below to fill out the Audition Interest Form at the bottom of this page.

Ready to audition for CYSO orchestras? Read through the frequently asked questions below for everything you need to know about the audition process.

If you have additional questions, please contact Karen Mari at kmari@cyso.org.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes CYSO programs different from other music training?

At CYSO, students have the opportunity to work alongside a diverse student body of like-minded young musicians who are passionate, hard-working, and eager to learn. We challenge students to achieve beyond their expectations. Students learn to work individually as musicians and collectively as an ensemble.

In addition to the musicianship and technical proficiency that students develop at CYSO, the orchestra environment provides skills that translate to all areas of their life. CYSO musicians develop the ability to listen to others respectfully and intently, and learn how to work towards a goal.

Our students learn and grow alongside young musicians from across the Chicago region, developing friendships and learning to collaborate with students they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to interact with. Students leave CYSO with a strong sense of discipline, increased confidence, and a deep appreciation for music and the arts.

What is Jazz Orchestra?

CYSO’s Jazz Orchestra is a high school-level jazz ensemble program led by musician and educator Pharez Whitted. Rehearsals are held on Tuesday evenings from 6:00-8:30pm at CYSO’s offices in the Fine Arts Building (410 S. Michigan Ave in Chicago) throughout the school year. The orchestra will perform throughout the season at locations around the Chicago area, including venues such as Jazz Showcase, Harris Theater, and Studebaker Theater. 

Is experience required?

We recommend that students have approximately two years of experience playing their instrument to join Jazz Orchestra.

When are audition videos due?

Jazz Orchestra video auditions are due by March 27 at 11:59 PM. Videos can be up to 12 minutes in length. Students may submit their audition video any time before the deadline. After filling out the audition registration form, you’ll receive instructions on uploading your audition video.

What are Jazz Orchestra audition requirements and excerpts? 

This spring, Jazz Orchestra students will be asked to submit video auditions. Videos can be up to 12 minutes in length and are due on March 27 at 11:59 PM. Students may submit their audition video any time before the deadline.

Below are the requirements for the 2022-2023 auditions. If you have any questions, please email Andrea Kennard at akennard@cyso.org.

Saxophones (alto, tenor, bari)

  • Saxophones (alto, tenor, bari)
    • Two octaves, if possible
    • 2-3 Jazz Standards
      • Solo improvisation is preferred, but not required. If you do not feel confident improvising, simply play the head.

  • Brass (trumpets, trombones)
    • All excerpts for your instrument provided by CYSO. Please choose the part (1, 2, 3, etc) that fits comfortably within your range.
      • Counter Block: M – end
      • Bags Groove: J to the end
      • Evidence: R-W
      • Higher Ground: 49 – end
    • Four or more major scales at your tempo (excluding drummers)
    • Two octaves, if possible
    • 2-3 Jazz Standards
      • Solo improvisation is preferred, but not required. If you do not feel confident improvising, simply play the head.

  • Rhythm (piano, guitar, bass, drums)
    • All excerpts for your instrument provided by CYSO 
      • Afro Blue: shout chorus to the end (piano should read guitar part for this)
      • Pure Spirit: beginning to midway through the piece
      • Bags Groove: J to the end
      • Evidence: R-W
      • Higher Ground: 49 – end
    • Four or more major scales at your tempo (excluding drummers)
    • Two octaves, if possible
    • 2-3 Jazz Standards
      • Solo improvisation is preferred, but not required. If you do not feel confident improvising, simply play the head.
    • Optional inclusions 
      • Three or more harmonic minor scales
      • Two octaves, if possible
      • If you wish to be considered on an auxiliary instrument (tuba, etc) prepare a single excerpt on that instrument of your choice in addition to the materials above prepared on trumpet.
      • Any additional materials that you think will showcase your talent
      • Brief statement telling us about yourself (under 2 minutes)

What will CYSO be judging in my audition?

Things the judges consider

  • Rhythmic accuracy
  • Rhythmic stability (steady tempo)
  • Intonation (playing in-tune with yourself)
  • Tone quality
  • Dynamic contrast
  • Instrument-specific technique
  • Musicality, expression, and phrasing
  • Appropriateness of repertoire for your technical level
  • Ability to recover if you make a mistake
  • Careful preparation of all audition music

Things the judges do not consider

  • The audio quality of the device you used to record
  • The video quality of the device used to record
  • Where you recorded your video and what it looked like (bedroom, living room, bathroom, etc. However, acoustics can be an issue if, for example, you record in your bathroom and the sound is unclear due to the echo. Wherever you record, make sure you can be clearly heard.)
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Gender or gender presentation
  • If you have a private teacher or who your teacher is
  • Other auditions you’ve taken or groups you’ve played with
  • How fancy or expensive your instrument is

Where can I find instructions for submitting my video? 

After you have submitted your online audition registration form, a CYSO staff member will email you your video instructions!

Can I edit my video? 

Absolutely no editing or sound enhancements of any kind are permitted. Your Audition video should be one continuous take. Audition videos that are suspected to have been edited or otherwise enhanced will be immediately disqualified.

What if I do not have access to an instrument at home?

If you do not have access to your instrument or have other challenges preventing you from submitting a video, please email Karen Mari at kmari@cyso.org

Should I memorize the music?

Memorization is not required. If you would like to memorize your solos, you are welcome to do so.

What should I wear?

Wear nice dress clothes that are comfortable for you to perform in. Remember that this is the first impression you will make on those who will evaluate you. It is also a good idea to practice in the clothes you are planning to wear at least once before your audition.

When are where are rehearsals held? What about concerts?

Jazz Orchestra rehearsals are held on Tuesday evenings from 6:00 – 8:30 PM in CYSO room 833 at 410 S. Michigan Avenue, the Fine Arts Building.

Jazz Orchestra performs three concerts each season in fall, winter, and spring.

What is the Jazz Orchestra attendance policy and requirements for membership? 

Membership in CYSO is both a privilege and a responsibility. As one of the nation’s finest youth orchestra programs, CYSO maintains its standing through the commitment and dedication of our musicians. Participation at rehearsals results in successful performances. Jazz Orchestra members are allowed up to two absences per concert cycle.

Requirements vary for each orchestra, enrichment program, and by instrument. See the CYSO membership requirements for details.

What is the tuition cost of Jazz Orchestra? 

CYSO program tuition is available online on our tuition page. We make our programs accessible to all students, regardless of their financial background. Need-based financial assistance is available for all CYSO programs.

When will I find out if I have been accepted? 

2022-2023 season audition results will be announced by mid-June. All auditioning students will receive correspondence, regardless of the outcome.

Jazz Orchestra Audition Interest Form

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