CSO Fellowship Program to be launched this fall

As a part of national diversity efforts, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association will introduce a CSO Fellowship Program. Starting this fall, the program will launch with auditions for its first class of fellows in the 2022-23 season, with a goal of welcoming up to three musicians who identify as Black, Latino, Indigenous or as a member of any group traditionally underrepresented in U.S. symphony orchestras.

The initial class of fellows will be limited to string players (violin, viola, cello and bass) who are now students or graduates of a college, university or conservatory. Applications, to be submitted online, with a performance recorded digitally, will be accepted from April 1 to May 27. For more information about the CSO Fellowship Program, visit cso.org/fellowship, starting April 1.

The program will assist young musicians in auditioning for permanent posts in U.S. orchestras. To that end, fellows will rehearse and perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, work with staff and guest conductors, and receive training and mentoring from CSO musicians.

“We are excited to launch the CSO Fellowship Program, coming out of our renewed conversation about, and commitment to, expanding opportunities and support for talented musicians from diverse backgrounds who want to pursue classical music as a career,” said CSOA President Jeff Alexander in a statement. “We must remain focused on this important work to ensure a strong and equitable future for symphony orchestras that so enrich our communities.”

Fellows will play in a minimum of 20 subscription weeks with the CSO and will have up to 10, one-hour private lessons annually with a CSO musician. Additional benefits such as financial support for initial relocation expenses and auditions will be available. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent U.S. residents or hold a 0-1 or an OPT visa and be a member in good standing of the American Federation of Musicians (or be willing to join the AFM if accepted to the fellowship).

“We take seriously the responsibility of mentoring the next generation of musicians, and we look forward to welcoming the musicians of the fellowship program onstage with us,” said James Smelser, chair of the Members’ Committee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and member of the CSO horn section. “We will be proud to continue performing music at the highest level together with our fellowship musicians.”

The CSO Fellowship Program has been developed with full support from Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti as part of his ongoing commitment to training young musicians. The program builds on the CSOA’s longtime mission of training and developing musicians, which began more than 100 years ago with the founding of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the CSOs pre-professional training ensemble.

The CSOA has gone on to create or participate in programs that support young musicians from traditionally underrepresented communities in the orchestral field, with a focus on those interested in entering top conservatories and post-secondary music schools for a classical-music performance career. The CSOA’s programs include the Percussion Scholarship Program, Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative and Sphinx Orchestral Partners Auditions.

If accepted, a fellow may be invited to remain in the program for up to three years.

 Applications for 2022-23 are being accepted April 1 through May 27, with final auditions this June at Orchestra Hall. The CSOA will cover round-trip domestic transportation and up to a two-night hotel stay for audition finalists.

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