CYSO Announces New Jazz Orchestra

For 70 years, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras has been a leader in classical music training and education for young musicians across the Chicago region. This fall, CYSO will expand its offerings with the creation of its new Jazz Orchestra led by renowned Chicago musician and educator Pharez Whitted.

CYSO Jazz Orchestra

CYSO’s jazz program will build on Chicago’s rich history as a center of jazz music creation and innovation. The new orchestra will be dedicated to the study and performance of classic and contemporary big band jazz music. Featuring high school-age musicians, CYSO’s Jazz Orchestra will perform the full spectrum of jazz compositions, from classic big band swing charts steeped in jazz tradition to new works by locally and nationally renowned jazz composers that incorporate current and emerging styles that define the genre today.

“I am honored to be working with CYSO and have the opportunity to conduct and mentor such a diverse and talented pool of young people who represent the entire Chicagoland area,” said new Jazz Orchestra Director Pharez Whitted. “I can’t wait to get started this fall and witness the birth of the first CYSO jazz orchestra, which we hope will become a valuable and integral part of Chicago’s jazz scene.”

Pharez Whitted

Whitted is himself a student of both contemporary and classic jazz music. He has been a performer for over 30 years, is faculty at Ravinia’s prestigious Jazz Scholar Program and served as Professor of Music at Chicago State University.

“The Jazz Orchestra is something we’ve been hoping to add to our programs for a while, and with Pharez coming on board, the time is finally right,” said CYSO Music Director Allen Tinkham. “Many of our current students have interest in both classical and jazz performance, in addition to the new performers that this program will engage. CYSO’s Jazz Orchestra is the only student big band orchestra in Chicago, which will allow our young performers to learn jazz musicianship in an ensemble that will traverse the history of jazz.”  

Because live performance is especially vital for the development of jazz musicianship, CYSO’s Jazz Orchestra will perform at venues across the Chicago area throughout the season, in addition to two principal performances at Chicago’s Jazz Showcase in the fall and spring. Rehearsals and sectionals with some of Chicago’s most respected jazz musicians will take place at the Fine Arts Building on Wednesday evenings throughout the season.

For information on rehearsals, audition requirements and schedule, please visit

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