CYSO offers nine on-site orchestras and ensembles: Three string orchestras serving primarily elementary and high school students, and four full orchestras that serve middle and high school players. CYSO also offers a high school-level Jazz Orchestra and Steel Orchestras (comprised of four steelpan ensembles), both of which are open to students enrolled in other CYSO orchestras as well as other musicians. Our new Chamber Orchestra is open to students currently enrolled in Symphony Orchestra.

CYSO ensembles receive instruction from some of Chicago’s top professional musicians and regularly perform at the region’s top venues including Symphony Center’s Orchestra Hall, Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Northwestern University’s Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, and University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts.



Frequently Asked Questions about CYSO Orchestras

In addition to the musicianship and technical proficiency that students develop at CYSO, the orchestra environment provides young people with 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.

At CYSO, students have the opportunity to work alongside a diverse student body of like-minded young musicians who are passionate, hard-working, and ready to learn. We challenge students to achieve beyond their expectations. Students learn to work individually as musicians and collectively as an ensemble. We view the orchestra as a model for democracy in action; each student contributes to the good of the whole and in the end, the orchestra is greater than just the sum of its parts.

All CYSO auditions for the upcoming season take place in the spring and summer. Full and string orchestra audition registration opens early in the year, with new student auditions taking place in March and April. Steelpan Orchestra try-outs happen in the late spring, and Jazz Orchestra auditions take place in the late spring/early summer. Join our mailing list to be notified when auditions open.

Occasionally we hold recruiting auditions in the summer if there are spots that still need to be filled. See out Auditions page for more info.

When auditioning for full and string orchestras, students audition for CYSO in general, not a specific ensemble. Based on the student’s age and performance, our Artistic staff place them in the appropriate ensemble. The only exception is students who would like to be considered for Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonic Orchestra; For those two advanced orchestras, musicians must perform the orchestral excerpt(s) in addition to the two contrasting solo works. If a student decides to audition for Symphony or Philharmonic and the judges do not feel they are ready for those ensembles, students are not penalized and are still eligible for a spot in another orchestra. See our Auditions page for more information.

For steel ensembles, students will perform a try-out for the program and are placed in the appropriate ensemble based on their age and ability. The try-out is not considered an audition since students are automatically accepted into the Steel program and no prior experience is necessary.

Jazz Orchestra auditions take place in late spring/summer. Students should have previous  jazz performance experience. See the Jazz audition page for more information.

CYSO’s full orchestras include woodwind, brass, percussion, harp, and piano students in addition to string students. String orchestras are only for string (violin, viola, cello, and bass) students.  For more information about each ensemble and the students that make up those groups, please visit our programs page.

All orchestra rehearsals are held in CYSO rehearsal spaces 833, 802 & Curtiss Hall at 410 S. Michigan Avenue, the Fine Arts Building (FAB). Supplemental Programs are held in various CYSO rooms at FAB and in various Roosevelt University (RU) rooms at 430 S. Michigan Avenue.

2017-2018 SATURDAYS

Orchestra Rehearsals – Fine Arts Building, Curtiss Hall
Overture Strings (OS) 9:00 – 10:15 AM
Preparatory Strings (PS) 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM
Accelerando Strings (AS) 1:00 – 3:00 PM

Orchestra Rehearsals – Fine Arts Building, Room 833
Debut Orchestra (DO) 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Concert Orchestra (CO) 12:30 – 3:00 PM

Steel Orchestra Rehearsals – Fine Arts Building, Room 802
The Jumbies 9:00 – 10:00 AM
Groove Steel Ensemble 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Junior Steel Orchestra 1:00 – 3:00 PM
Kaiso Steel Orchestra 3:15 – 5:15 PM

2017-2018 SUNDAYS

Orchestra Rehearsals – Fine Arts Building, Room 833
Philharmonic Orchestra (PO) 12:00 – 2:30 PM
Symphony Orchestra (SO) 3:00 – 6:00 PM or 3:00 – 8:00 PM

Enrichment Programs – Various Rooms
Composition Seminar (SO & PO) 10:45 – 11:45 AM
Chamber Music (SO) 12:30 – 2:30 PM
Chamber Music (PO) 3:00 – 5:00 PM

2017-2018 TUESDAYS

Jazz Orchestra Rehearsals – Fine Arts Building, Room 833

Requirements vary for each orchestra, supplemental program, and by instrument. Visit our audition requirements and CYSO membership requirements for details.

Chamber Music is offered to all Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonic Orchestra students as well as selected chamber music-only students.  Students express their interest in the chamber music program via an online survey sent over the summer. Placements are made based on the Fall Seating auditions and are a full year commitment.

Composition Seminar is offered to students in orchestras made up of mostly high school-age students: Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonic Orchestra, Concert Orchestra, Accelerando Strings, and Kaiso Steel Orchestra students. Students sign-up for the Composition Seminar via an online form sent over the summer.