Civic Orchestra of Chicago

Civic Orchestra of Chicago

 Application and audition materials for percussion, timpani and keyboard are now closed.

For all other instruments, the application deadline has been extended. Please contact if you will be submitting your application past the January 30th, deadline so we may monitor applications in progress.




Founded in 1919 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago benefits from a musical alliance that is the only one of its kind among major American orchestras. Under the guidance of CSO music director Riccardo Muti, Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant Yo-Yo Ma, Principal Conductor Cliff Colnot, and CSO musicians, the Civic Orchestra offers advanced training for young classical musicians seeking to make a professional life in music as innovative, collaborative, and adaptive artists. Drawing on the extraordinary musical resources of the CSO, Civic musicians immerse themselves in time-honored orchestral training as the program’s foundation. Additionally, Civic musicians perform in chamber ensembles; participate in experimental, musician-led projects; visit schools; and attend workshops and seminars with special guest artists and clinicians. The Civic experience is designed to provide its musicians the knowledge, skills, and frame of mind necessary to perform music at the highest level and create fulfilling careers in music.  The Civic Orchestra performs eight to ten full orchestra concerts annually – in Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center and in locations across Chicago—for approximately 14,000 people. In addition to these critically acclaimed live concerts, Civic Orchestra performances can be heard locally on WFMT (98.7 FM) and through nationally syndicated radio broadcasts on more than 160 broadcast outlets in 30 states.

A typical Civic concert cycle includes a series of split orchestra and full orchestra rehearsals with the principal conductor, sectional(s) with coaches from the CSO, and final rehearsals with the guest conductor. Additionally, Civic musicians receive chamber coaching and participate in professional development workshops, master classes, and mock auditions with CSO musicians. Civic musicians are invited to observe select CSO rehearsals with Riccardo Muti and other distinguished guest conductors, and receive complimentary or discounted tickets to as many as 40 CSO concerts and other visiting artists’ performances at Symphony Center.

Through his work as the CSO’s creative consultant, Yo-Yo Ma plays a key role in developing the program curriculum by creating transformative musical experiences for Civic musicians. Over the course of 4-5 residencies with the Civic Orchestra, Ma mentors Civic musicians through deep musical exploration and activities that require new and experimental skills on stage, in schools, and community locations throughout greater Chicago.

Civic Orchestra musicians go on to prestigious musical institutions around the world, including the CSO. More than 15 percent of the current CSO membership is comprised of Civic alumni. Hundreds of other Civic alumni are currently active leaders in the field of music.

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With the ultimate goal of evolving how young classical musicians are prepared for careers in the arts, the Citizen Musician Fellowship program functions as the Civic Orchestra’s laboratory for innovation. Presently, the fellowship immerses eight emerging professional musicians in rigorous artistic and professional development that supplements their membership in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Fellows participate in approximately twenty-five hours of work per week during the season, inclusive of all Civic Orchestra and related chamber activities. Through an array of experiences designed to develop 21st century musicianship, the fellowship program aims not to define success for its members, but rather to empower them to realize their full potential as people as they forge their own paths. The Citizen Musician Fellowship is closed to applicants for the 2015-2016 season. Please check back for audition and applications for the 2016-2017 season in late fall 2016.


To read more about the fellowship program and the current class of fellows, please click here.




Participation in the Civic Orchestra as a Regular Member is a part-time commitment, enabling musicians to pursue additional educational opportunities and engage in the rich professional musical life of Chicago. Each Regular Member of the Civic Orchestra will receive a stipend of $7,300 in the 2015/16 season to help offset some living expenses. Those who audition successfully for principal string positions will receive an additional $2,285 per season. At the start of the season, Civic members may also audition to participate in Civic Engagement Ensembles (the Civic Orchestra’s chamber music program) and receive an additional $2,500 stipend.


Regular members are eligible to participate in the Civic Orchestra for up to two consecutive seasons. Musicians accepted as Associate Members are offered a one-season associate membership and are contacted on as-needed basis as extra/substitute musicians.




There is no age limit or academic requirement to be a member of the Civic Orchestra. Most members are between the ages of 22 and 30 and either graduate level students or post-graduates. While some members are undergraduates, the time commitment for the Civic Orchestra is substantial and may often conflict with undergraduate university obligations.



Application and audition materials for timpani and keyboard are due no later than 11:59pm Central Time on Thursday, January 15, 2015. The audition deadline for percussion applicants has been extended to Friday, January 23, 2015 at 11:59pm. For all other instruments, application and audition materials are due no later than 11:59pm Central Time on Friday, January 30, 2015. A $90.00 non-refundable application fee applies.

In order to be considered for regular or associate membership in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, all applicants must complete the following steps:

1.  Select "Online Application" followed by your instrument from the drop down menu to the right.

2.    Complete the online application form and pay the application fee.

3.    Upload a photo of yourself.

4.    Upload a current résumé, no more than 2 pages (please see guidelines below)

5.    Record and upload a video audition (please see the menu to the right for your specific instrument requirements).

  • Audition videos must be shot in one take and include all of the required solos and excerpts for your instrument. Absolutely no editing or sound enhancements of any kind are permitted. Audition videos that are suspected to have been edited or otherwise enhanced will be immediately disqualified.

6.    Record and upload a short introduction video

  •  The introduction video should include you stating your name, where you are from, and your age. Please also briefly answer, in one minute or less, the following question: Why are you applying for the Civic Orchestra program?

For percussion, the video recorded audition is a preliminary round. Applicants who are selected as finalists will be notified by Monday, February 9, 2015 and will be required to audition live at Symphony Center in Chicago on Thursday, March 26, 2015.

All timpani and keyboard applicants need not submit a video audition but instead, must audition live at Symphony Center on Friday, March 27, 2015 for timpani, and Monday, March 9, 2015 for keyboard. Timpani and keyboard applicants must still submit the introductory video, résumé, application form and fee as required application materials. Only the timpanists and keyboardists who have submitted complete application materials will be notified of their audition time and instructions. No walk-in auditions will be accepted.




Résumés should be no more than two pages in length. Please list experience you have had in the following areas:

  • Education
  • Primary Teachers
  • Masterclass Performance Experience
  • Orchestral Experience
  • Chamber Music Experience
  • Summer Festival Experience
  • Teaching Experience
  • Other employment experience (e.g. Administrative, Retail, Restaurant, other non-music employment)



Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra listen to and view all video auditions. The judges appreciate high quality video recordings that are the best possible representation of an applicant’s technical ability, tone quality and musicianship. Below are a few guidelines when preparing to make the video audition recording:

·         Watch your video before you upload and submit it for consideration.

·         The video frame should include your entire face and instrument. Videos submitted without complete face and instrument will not be considered.

·         Use  high quality sound equipment to make your recording. The sound quality will make a substantial difference for the judges.

·         Avoid recording videos near windows or in rooms that do not have good sound proofing. External noises interfere with the judges’ listening experience.  

·         Carefully consider the room/environment for your video. Make certain you are well-lit and fully visible. Background items like laundry on beds, pets, dirty kitchens,  etc. are distracting.

·         FAQs and further suggestions for making a high-quality video can be found by clicking here.