CYSO programs offer a wide range of opportunities for new and current students. Based on age and experience, we offer three types of ensembles: orchestra, steelpan, and jazz. Within each category there are options for different ages and skill levels.


Full and string orchestras

Elementary through high school

Some experience required


High school

Improvisation experience is preferred, but not required


Elementary through high school

No previous steelpan experience required

“CYSO taught me to strive to be better everyday. The challenge of every rehearsal and the strong bonds created with so many hard-working people helped me gain new perspectives. I learned that though I may be surrounded by many talented people, the real competition is me and how willing I am to push, contribute, and apply myself.”

Concert Orchestra student

World-Class Experiences

CYSO musicians have experiences and performance opportunities rarely available to young players. These include performing in world-class venues and at high-profile events throughout Chicago and around the world. Our international touring program has taken students to Europe, Asia, and South America. Our students regularly appear on the radio, including WFMT’s Introductions and the national broadcast series From The Top.


CYSO students graduated in 2021 and are headed to 54 colleges, universities, and conservatories


of CYSO’s 2021 grads will study majors related to music

5.5 million

of scholarship funds were awarded to students

Ensembles For All Skill Levels

We understand that music access varies greatly depending on students’ background and neighborhood, so we offer a variety of programs to engage young musicians. CYSO ensembles range from beginner to advanced, and our steelpan program requires no prior music experience at all.

Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunities

Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras was the first classical music ensemble to play at Lollapalooza and ensembles have performed for dignitaries such as First Lady Michelle Obama and Chicago’s mayors. Our students have played before worldwide TV audiences of millions on CNN’s July 4th special and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and performed alongside the Chicago Bulls for the team’s video holiday card.

What Comes Next

Our alumni perform with America’s top orchestras and music ensembles, and also go on to become world class educators and music professionals in a wide range of genres. CYSO provides students with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in any professional discipline.

Most importantly, whether or not they continue their music studies after graduation, students leave Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras with a strong sense of discipline, increased self-confidence, and a deep appreciation for the arts.

Meet the Musicians

CYSO musicians come from across the Chicago area, brought together by their shared passion for making music. Students connect with new friends they wouldn’t have met anywhere else and discover that with dedication, they can achieve amazing things. The ensemble experience pushes young players to listen and collaborate in ways they may not have experienced before.

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