As one of the country’s leading youth orchestras, CYSO serves a crucial role in bringing together promising young musicians from diverse backgrounds in an environment that promotes learning and collaboration, musical and personal growth. Since our founding in 1946, CYSO has trained thousands of young musicians and our core commitment to empowering and uplifting young musicians remains unchanged. From one original orchestra, CYSO has grown to an expansive network of ensembles and training programs housed at the Fine Arts Building and community sites throughout Chicago, in addition to performances in neighborhoods and for audiences across the city. By increasing access to high quality music education, we are developing the future of classical music for decades to come and creating leaders who will change the world.

The Impact of Music Education

Students engaged in arts education have higher GPAs, higher standardized test scores, and lower dropout rates

Music students develop creativity, complex problem solving skills, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence

Music training helps students develop a growth mindset—the belief that the harder you work, the better you will become at something—which science has found is crucial for achievement

CYSO Programs


percentage of CYSO students who receive financial assistance or attend a free program


percentage of CYSO’s 2020 graduates who will study music


number of community and school program sites across Chicago that CYSO reached in 2019

Map of the Chicago-land area indicating the broad distribution of CYSO program sites

CYSO Students at a Glance


ages of CYSO students


students of color


different zip codes represented


number of languages CYSO students speak at home


number of CYSO students who attend public school 

5.5 million

amount CYSO’s class of 2021 earned in merit-based scholarships

The Orchestra Field


percentage of non-white musicians in professional orchestras


or less of orchestra musicians are Black or Latinx


percentage of U.S. conductor positions held by women

Youth orchestras like CYSO have a unique opportunity to influence the future of professional orchestras, a field that has historically been very homogenous and slow to change. CYSO is proud to be on the cutting edge of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives for the entire youth orchestra sector, not only increasing access through community pathway programs, but also investing in DEI initiatives to ensure that students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds feel safe and included while at CYSO.

CYSO Annual Reports

Read more about our impact each season by browsing recent annual reports.

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