The Civic Orchestra of Chicago is now accepting applications for Regular and Associate Membership and for the Civic Fellowship for the 2016/17 season. Application and audition materials for all instruments are due no later than 11:59 p.m. Central Time on Friday, January 15, 2016. A $90.00 nonrefundable application fee applies.

About the Civic Orchestra

Since 1919, young artists have sought membership in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago to develop their musicianship and to further prepare for professional careers. Founded by Frederick Stock, second music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Civic Orchestra is the only training orchestra of its kind affiliated with a major American orchestra.

The Civic Orchestra offers promising young professional musicians unique access to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) through training with the musicians of the CSO, music director Riccardo Muti and distinguished guest conductors, as well as CSO Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant Yo-Yo Ma. Under the guidance of the CSO’s artistic leadership, Civic Orchestra musicians develop as exceptional orchestral players and engaged artists.

The Civic Orchestra provides its members with opportunities to develop important skills to make professional lives in music. Civic Orchestra members rehearse and perform at the historic Symphony Center, develop deep connections with CSO musicians through sectional rehearsals, private lessons, side-by-side rehearsals, mock auditions, and career development conversations. The Civic Orchestra also provides opportunities to attend CSO rehearsals open only to Civic members and complimentary tickets to CSO concerts throughout the season. Civic members also expand their creative, professional, and artistic boundaries through a series of residencies led by Yo-Yo Ma and wide array of performances in neighborhoods and schools throughout the Chicagoland.

Select members are also appointed as Civic Fellows and partake in a rigorous curriculum of artistic and professional development that enhances their participation in the full orchestra. See below for more details.

The importance of the Civic Orchestra’s role in greater Chicago is underscored by its commitment to present concerts of the highest quality at no charge to the public. In addition to the critically acclaimed live concerts at Symphony Center, Civic Orchestra performances can be heard locally on WFMT (98.7 FM) and by nearly three million listeners in nationally syndicated radio broadcasts on 160 broadcast outlets in 30 states. These are made possible through a generous gift from the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation.

The Civic Orchestra is a signature program of the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Institute offers Learning and Training Programs that annually engage more than 200,000 people of diverse backgrounds.

Learn more information about the Institute and its programs >

The Civic Orchestra Fellowship

The Civic Fellowship program immerses select regular members in rigorous training that enhances their participation in the full orchestra. Through an array of experiences designed to build and diversify creative and professional skills, the fellowship program empowers participants realize their full potential as artistically excellent, collaborative, civically-engaged, and entrepreneurial musicians.

In 2016/17, there will be up to 17 Civic Fellows. Fellowship auditions are open to new, incoming Civic members (for up to a two-season term, concluding as late as June 2018) as well as to current Civic regular members who are advancing to their second year in the orchestra (for a one-season fellowship only, concluding June 2017).

2016/17 Fellowship auditions are open to the following instruments: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horns (2), trumpet (2), trombone, tuba, percussion, violin (2), viola, cello, bass.

The Civic members selected for the Fellowship will receive an annual stipend of $15,000, which is inclusive of membership in the full orchestra. The stipend is payable in bi-weekly installments, September through June. Eligibility to participate in the Civic Fellowship is contingent upon maintaining good standing in the Civic Orchestra. While a second season as a regular member may be offered without re-audition, Fellows who wish to extend the Fellowship to a second season must re-audition. The

2016/17 Civic Fellowship curriculum will consist of the following; Fellows have approximately 20 hours of work per week, inclusive of Civic Orchestra duties.

  • • Play expanded roles for Civic Orchestra “artistic challenges” led by Yo-Yo Ma.
  • • Participation in an intensive chamber music program, performing at Symphony Center and in schools and communities across Chicago, in traditional and mixed ensembles. Perform a wide range of repertoire, from Baroque to new music.
  • • Mentor young classical musicians as part of the Chicago Youth in Music Festival.
  • • With guidance from guest artists and CSO staff, participate in community engagement projects that expand the Civic Orchestra’s offerings and engage diverse communities. Projects reach Chicago area hospitals, juvenile detention centers and prisons, and social service organizations.
  • • Receive coaching and attend workshops led by world-renowned faculty including Yo-Yo Ma, musicians of the CSO, Third Coast Percussion, eighth blackbird, and more.
  • • Participate in training that further develops public speaking, fundraising, artistic planning, classroom management, and advocacy skills.

See eligibility requirements below.

Civic Orchestra Membership and Eligibility


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 $7,500 in the 2016/17 season. Those who audition successfully for rotating principal string positions, will receive an additional stipend ranging from $90-$270 per concert cycle. The stipend is payable in bi-weekly installments, September through June. Regular members are eligible to participate in the Civic Orchestra for up to two consecutive seasons, provided they maintain good standing throughout the first season. Musicians accepted as associate members are offered a one-season associate membership and are contacted on as-needed basis as extra/substitute musicians.

Each season, the Civic Orchestra typically presents 6-7 concerts at Symphony Center, 2-3 performances in community locations, 3-4 residencies and “artistic challenges” with Yo-Yo Ma. The Civic season also includes side-by-side rehearsals and coaching sessions with CSO musicians, reading sessions with special guest conductors, career development workshops, as well as master classes with CSO guest artists as opportunities arise.



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.


Civic Fellows must first be accepted as a regular member of the Civic Orchestra and possess at least a Bachelor’s degree in music. Once chosen, Fellows may not be enrolled in a degree, diploma, or certificate program at any time during their fellowship.

2016/17 auditions are open to new, incoming Civic members (for a two-season term, concluding as late as June 2018) as well as to current Civic regular members who are advancing to their second year in the orchestra (for a one-season term only, concluding June 2017).

Audition Information

Application and audition materials for all instruments are due no later than 11:59pm Central Time on Friday, January 15, 2016. A $90.00 non-refundable application fee applies.

Please click here to apply for the 2016/17 Civic Orchestra Season.

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

  1. 1. Select "Online Application" followed by your instrument from the drop down menu.
  2. 2. Complete the online application form and pay the application fee.
  3. 3. Upload a photo of yourself.
  4. 4. Upload a current résumé (please see guidelines below)
  5. 5. Record and upload a video audition.
  6. ·         Audition videos must be shot in one continuous 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.
  7. 6. Record and upload a short introduction video
  8. ·         Begin the separate introduction video by 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 to be a member of the Civic Orchestra?
  9. 7. If also applying for a Civic Fellowship: respond in writing to the following in 500 words or less: Why do you play a musical instrument, and why do you want to make a career as a professional musician?


Woodwind applicants are highly encouraged, although not required, to audition on auxiliary instruments. Upon acceptance into Civic, however, all members are required to play auxiliary instruments as assigned.

For percussion, the video recorded audition is a preliminary round. Applicants who are selected as finalists will be notified as such by Monday, February 8, 2016 and will be required to audition live at Symphony Center in Chicago on Tuesday, March 29, 2016.

All timpani and keyboard applicants must audition live at Symphony Center on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 for timpani and Monday, March 14 for keyboard. Timpani and keyboard applicants need not submit a video recorded audition, but the introductory video, résumé, application form and fee are required as application. Following review by Civic Orchestra staff, all timpanists and keyboardists who have submitted complete applications will be notified of their audition time and instructions. No walk-in auditions will be accepted.

Applicants who have been accepted as regular members and have also applied for a Civic Fellowship must participate in a live interview (either in person or via Skype) on March 24 or 25. Applicants who are advanced to the Fellowship interview process will be notified of their status and assigned an interview time by March 15.



Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra listen and view all submitted video auditions. The judges are looking for high quality video recordings that are the best possible representation of applicant’s technical ability, tone quality and musicianship. Below are a few guidelines when preparing to make the video audition recording:
The video frame should include your entire face, your instrument, and full range of motion while you are playing. Videos submitted without full visibility will not be considered.

  • • Good sound quality will make a substantial difference for the judges to get the most accurate sense of your music making, tone, and timbre. However, professional equipment and/or studio space is not necessary. With attention to a few details, you can make a successful audition video using readily available consumer electronics.
  • • Please give careful consideration to the room/environment that you are recording your video. Please make certain you are well-lit – more light in front than behind you will make you more visible to the viewer. Also be mindful of miscellaneous items in the background that may be distracting to the viewer.
  • • Avoid recording near windows or rooms with excessive external noises that might distract the judges from listening to your playing.
  • • Please be certain to watch, and listen, your video before submission, checking for audio levels and visual presentation of the video overall.
  • • FAQs and further suggestions on making a high-quality video can be found by clicking here.



Resumes 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, if any (e.g. Administrative, or other non-music employment)





Civic Orchestra Library Fellowship

The Civic Orchestra Library Fellowship is currently closed to applicants. Please check back in early Spring, 2016 for further application information.