Founded in 1919, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago is the only training orchestra affiliated with a major American orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The principal goal of the Civic Orchestra is to recruit nationally a diverse group of gifted pre-professional musicians, train them at the highest level as orchestra players, and further develop skills of advocacy and mentoring essential to the role of orchestral musicians in communities now and in the future.
All Civic Orchestra programs operate under the auspices of the Civic Orchestra Board and are supported through the Civic Orchestra Annual Fund and the Civic Orchestra Endowment.
The Civic Orchestra performs annually under the leadership of Principal Conductor Cliff Colnot and esteemed guest conductors. Other guest conductors for the 2007/08 season include Bernard Haitink, Myung-Whun Chung, Kent Nagano, and Oliver Knussen.
The Civic Orchestra performs 6 - 8 orchestral concerts and a chamber music series annually in Symphony Center and in other venues throughout the Chicago area free of charge to the public.
Training includes seminars designed to address important professional development issues such as The Key to Auditions, Performance Injury Management, and The Entrepreneurial Musician. Principal players of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra coach Civic Orchestra instrumental sectionals regularly.
Master classes with CSO guest artists, which have included Pinchas Zukerman, Joanne MacGregor, Yo-Yo Ma, and Gil Shaham further enhance the training experience and gives the musicians more personal contact with these great artists.
The Civic Orchestra, a tuition-free program, provides stipends to participating members. The Civic Orchestra participates in a Graduate Fellowship program in conjunction with Chicago area universities including Northwestern, DePaul, Roosevelt and Northern Illinois universities.
MusiCorps®, the Civic Orchestra's education and community engagement program inaugurated during the 1997/98 season, forms partnerships with host institutions in the Chicago community including schools, churches, community centers, and other community hubs, and is designed to reach diverse communities and generally foster an appreciation and love of music. As a training experience for Civic members, the program seeks to develop the role and identity of the musician not only as performer, but as teacher, advocate and ambassador committed to interacting with his or her community.
MusiCorps® is a federally registered service mark owned by the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Use of the service mark is not permitted without the written permission of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.
Civic Orchestra concerts are broadcast locally in Chicago on WFMT (98.7), and are syndicated nationally to an audience from Massachusetts to Oregon. These broadcasts are sponsored by the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation.
An aggressive national recruiting campaign has increased applications to the Civic by 91% in three years. 67% of the orchestra members have completed a bachelors degree and 36% have completed a graduate degree. Approximately half have completed degrees at the top 12 music schools in the country.
Civic alumni are currently members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; the Cleveland, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Dallas, Columbus, and Louisville orchestras; the Los Angeles Philharmonic; the San Francisco, Boston, Pittsburgh, Houston, Dallas, Baltimore, Saint Louis and National symphonies; the Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago orchestras; and many other symphony orchestras around the world.