Applications for the Civic Orchestra of Chicago's 2017/18 season are now open. Applications and audition materials are due no later than February 3, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. CT

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 emerging professional musicians unique access to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) through training with the musicians of the CSO, 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 civically-engaged artists.

The Civic Orchestra provides its members with opportunities to build important skills to make professional lives in music. Civic Orchestra members rehearse and perform at Symphony Center in downtown Chicago, form deep relationships with CSO musicians through sectional rehearsals, private lessons, side-by-side rehearsals, mock auditions, and career development conversations. Civic members also attend select CSO rehearsals and receive 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 that include a wide array of performances in neighborhoods and schools throughout the Chicagoland.

Following an additional audition process, select members are 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 Civic Orchestra is a signature program of the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Institute offers education and community programs that annually engage more than 200,000 people of diverse backgrounds. For more information about the Institute and its programs, visit

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 2017/18, 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 2019) 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 2018).  

Fellowship auditions are open to the following instruments: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, percussion, violin, viola, cello, bass, and keyboard.

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 2017/18 Civic Fellowship curriculum will consist of the following; Fellows have approximately 20-25 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 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,  and other guest artists.
  • •    Participate in training that further develops public speaking, fundraising, artistic planning, classroom management, and advocacy skills.
  • •    Have the opportunity to teach weekly at a local community music school


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 2017/18 season. Those who audition successfully for rotating principal string positions will receive an additional stipend ranging from $90-$210 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 and upon receipt of an invitation from the CSO for a second year of membership. Musicians accepted as associate members are offered a one-season associate membership only, and are contacted on as-needed basis as extra/substitute musicians throughout the season.

Each season, the Civic Orchestra typically presents 7-8 concerts at Symphony Center and 2-3 performances in community locations, participates in 3-4 residencies with Yo-Yo Ma, and offers two open rehearsal with CSO Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti. 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.


Members of Civic Orchestra must be aged 18 or older, and must have, at minimum, a high school diploma to join the Civic Orchestra as a Regular or Associate Member. Most members are between the ages of 22 and 30 and are either graduate level students or post-graduates with a Bachelor’s degree. While some members are current undergraduate students, the time commitment for the Civic Orchestra is substantial and may often conflict with undergraduate university obligations. All Regular Members must live within the Greater Chicago area, as the season schedule does not permit commuting from out of state.


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

2017/18 auditions are open to new, incoming Civic members (for a two-season term, concluding as late as June 2019) 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 2018).  

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). Applicants who are advanced to the Fellowship interview process will be notified of their status and assigned an interview time by March 20, 2017.


The Civic Orchestra accepts applications from non-US citizens. If the application and audition are successful, members must have a valid visa or immigration status and appropriate employment authorization in order to participate in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. If an applicant is awarded an offer of Regular Membership or Civic Fellowship, the Civic Orchestra may be eligible to sponsor the member on an H-3 visa. H-3 visas are very restrictive in the US with regard to earning additional income, therefore it is highly recommended that international applicants have an F-1 status (with CPT or OPT), O-1 status, or Permanent Residency (Green Card).

Audition Information


Application and audition materials for all instruments are due no later than 11:59 p.m. Central Time on Friday, February 3, 2017. A $90.00 nonrefundable application fee applies. Repertoire requirements can be found on the program pages through the link below.

Click here to apply

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 one-page résumé.
5.       Record and upload a video audition.
6.       Record and upload a short introduction video (see note below)
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?

Further Requirements:

•         Audition videos must be shot in one continuous take and include all of the required solos and excerpts for your instrument in the order they are listed. 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.
•         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 me a member of the Civic Orchestra?
•         If you are also applying for a Civic Fellowship, please include in your introduction video – after describing why you are applying to the Civic Orchestra and in three minutes or less – what you hope to gain from the fellowship program as well as what you have to offer the Civic family.

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 oboe, bass trombone, and percussion applicants, the video recorded audition is a preliminary round. Applicants who are selected as finalists will be notified as such by Friday, March 3, 2017, and will be required to audition live at Symphony Center in Chicago in late March/early April. Please check back for official audition dates in mid-November. No walk-in auditions will be accepted.

All timpani and keyboard applicants must audition live at Symphony Center. Please check back here for live audition dates which will occur late March — early April 2017. 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.


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

Applications for the Civic Orchestra Library Fellowship are closed. Please check here for further updates for applying in future seasons.