Since 1919, young artists have sought membership in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago to develop their talents and to further prepare for careers as professional musicians. 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 emerging professional musicians unique access to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) through immersive experiences with the musicians of the CSO and some of today’s most sought-after conductors, including world-renowned CSO Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti. From 2010 to 2019, Yo-Yo Ma was a leading mentor to Civic musicians and staff in his role as CSO Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant and the programs, and initiatives he established are integral to the Civic Orchestra curriculum today. Civic Orchestra musicians develop as exceptional orchestral players and engaged artists, cultivating their ability to succeed in the rapidly evolving world of music in the 21st century.
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).
Civic musicians also expand their creative, professional, and artistic boundaries and reach diverse audiences through educational performances at Chicago Public Schools and a series of chamber concerts at various locations throughout the city including Chicago Park District field houses and the National Museum of Mexican Art.
To further expand its musician training, the Civic Orchestra launched the Civic Fellowship program in the 2013-14 season. Now engaging nine members of the Civic Orchestra, fellows participate in a rigorous curriculum above and beyond their orchestral activities that is designed to build and to diversify their creative and professional skills. The Civic Orchestra’s long history of presenting full orchestra performances without charge includes concerts at the South Shore Cultural Center (in partnership with the South Shore Advisory Council), the Apostolic Church of God, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School and the New Regal Theater, as well as numerous Chicago Public Schools.
The Civic Orchestra is a signature program of the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which offers a wide range of education and community programs that engage more than 200,000 people of diverse ages, incomes and backgrounds each year, in Chicago and around the world. For more information on the Institute and its programs, please visit cso.org/institute.