No experience is necessary to join CYSO’s Steel Orchestras– ensembles range from beginner to experienced young musicians. To join, students participate in a tryout and are placed in an appropriate ensemble based on their age and musical experience.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Read frequently asked questions below. If you have additional questions please ontact Scott McConnell at smcconnell@cyso.org or 312-939-2207 ext. 270.

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.

Is experience required?

No music or percussion experience is required to join Steelpan. Steel try-outs help gauge students’ abilities and maturity level to place them in the appropriate ensemble, but it is not a true “audition” since everyone gets in! Our steel ensembles include students with no prior music background as well as students from other CYSO ensembles with years of music experience.

The only exception is our advanced Kaiso Steel Ensemble, which does require an audition.

What is Steel Orchestra and what are CYSO’s steel ensembles?

Steelpan (sometimes called the steel drum) is a unique percussion instrument which has its roots in the Caribbean islands and culture of Trinidad and Tobago. CYSO’s Steelpan program focuses on basic music theory, technique, musicianship, building a diverse repertoire, and learning about calypso—the traditional music of Trinidad and Tobago—as well as other musical styles from classical to jazz. 

CYSO Steel ensembles meet at our location at 410 S. Michigan Ave, Suite 802. Steelpan ensembles include:

  • The Jumbies
    • Elementary Students
    • Rehearsals: Saturdays, 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM
  • Groove Steel Ensemble
    • Elementary/Middle School Students
    • Rehearsals: Saturdays, 10:30 AM – 12:00 AM
  • Junior Steel Orchestra
    • Intermediate Elementary/Middle School Students
    • Rehearsals: Saturdays, 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM
  • Kaiso Steel Orchestra
    • Our only audition-based Steelpan ensemble
    • Rehearsals:  Saturdays, 3:15 PM – 5:15 PM

Where do tryouts take place and how do I get there? 

Steel tryouts will take place via video submission or in-person at CYSO’s rehearsal spaces. New students who already play an instrument can submit an audition video on their primary instrument, though we do recommend they come in to get a feel for the actual steelpan in person before committing for the entire season.

New students who don’t play another instrument are invited to set up an in-person tryout. Tryouts will be scheduled through the spring and summer, based on staff and family availability.

In-person tryouts take place at CYSO’s offices in the Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave, Suite 802. Travel and transit information is available here.

My child has never played an instrument before. What should we expect at their tryout?

No prior musical ability is necessary to join CYSO’s Steel Orchestras program! Students who have never played an instrument will be tested on melodic and rhythmic learning by rote. Rote learning is a memorization technique commonly used in music that is  based on repetition.

My child plays an instrument but has never played steelpan. What should we expect at their tryout?

Students with experience will be tested on their general music knowledge as well as melodic and rhythmic sight reading on their primary instrument. Students should bring their instrument to the tryout and be prepared to play major scales and a solo or excerpt of repertoire they’re currently working on. Students interested in joining Kaiso Steel Orchestra, CYSO’s most advanced steel ensemble, should also prepare the Kaiso Audition Requirements.

My student plays the steelpan. What should we expect and prepare for their tryout? 

Students with prior experience playing steelpan will be tested on their basic music knowledge. They will also be asked to perform on the steelpan and assessed on major scales, melodic and rhythmic sight reading, aural skills and rote learning. Students interested in joining Kaiso Steel Orchestra, CYSO’s most advanced steel ensemble, should also prepare the Kaiso Audition Requirements.

My child wants to try out for Kaiso—how do they do that?

Kaiso is the only steel ensemble that requires an audition to join. Students who wish to audition should fill out the Audition form below and prepare the Kaiso Steel audition requirements.

When and where are Steel rehearsals held?

CYSO Steel ensembles meet at our location at 410 S. Michigan Ave, Suite 802. Steelpan ensembles include:

Jumbies: 9:00 am – 10:00 am

Groove Steel Ensemble: 10:30 am – 12:00 pm

Junior Steel Orchestra of Chicago: 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm or 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm for extended rehearsal days

Kaiso Steel Orchestra: 3:15 pm – 5:15 pm or 3:15 pm – 6:00 pm for extended rehearsal days

When are Steel Orchestra concerts? 

CYSO Steel Orchestras perform two yearly concerts. The Fall Concert will take place in December and the Spring Concert takes place in May. Kaiso Steel Orchestra also performs additional spring events including Education Concerts and the CYSO Gala. 

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

Steel Orchestras students are allowed three absences per concert cycle/semester (September – December and January – May). Absence forms may be completed online.

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

What is the tuition cost for Steel 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.

Steelpan Try Out Interest Form

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