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 four to five 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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