2020 Crain-Maling Foundation CSO Young Artists Competition

Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass

The Crain-Maling Foundation CSO Young Artists Competition identifies one extraordinary young musician to be featured as a soloist on a Chicago Symphony Orchestra School Concert. Finalists compete onstage in Orchestra Hall, accompanied by the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.

Preliminary round: January 18 and 19, 2020

Final round: March 7, 2020

Application Deadline: December 6, 2019 

Click here to apply. 

Eligibility requirements

Applicants must be born before December 31, 2006, and may not have completed their junior year of high school by the time of the preliminary round in order to be eligible.

All applicants must be legal residents of the state of Illinois, residing in Illinois. Students are not eligible for competition if they are past CSO Youth Auditions winners or are under professional management.

Application Instructions

A non-refundable fee of $60, payable by check to the League of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, must accompany each application. All applications must be submitted by Friday, December 6, and all checks must be received by Wednesday, December 11. Please mail checks to:

CSO Young Artists Competition
c/o Robert Curl
220 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60604

Click here for this year’s repertoire list. Applicants are strongly discouraged from auditioning with repertoire not found on the repertoire list. Applicants who wish to audition with a piece not found on this list must seek permission from CSOA staff in advance of the preliminary round.

A limited amount of financial assistance is available for any family who can demonstrate that such assistance is required. Such assistance can include a waiver of the registration fee or assistance with accompanist fees. To apply for assistance, the applicant must submit with the application a one-page letter requesting financial aid and explaining why this assistance is necessary. 

Competition requirements

  • Applicants must be prepared to perform one entire movement of a concerto from the repertoire list. Due to limited time, the preliminary round judges may request that the performer stop or skip sections.
  • Applicants are required to perform from memory.
  • All applicants must have an accompanist for the preliminary round. Applicants will be accompanied by the Civic Orchestra of Chicago for the final round.
  • Applicants selected as finalists must be available on specific dates to rehearse their selected repertoire with the Civic Orchestra. Each finalist will be given 45 minutes of rehearsal time.
  • Applicants must provide two copies of the solo part for the judges.

Preliminary Round

The Preliminary round of the CSO Young Artists Competition Auditions will take place on Saturday, January 18 and Sunday, January 19, 2020, in Buntrock Hall at Symphony Center.

The Preliminary round will be held before a panel of judges and is closed to the public. Up to four finalists may be selected at the judges’ discretion.


The final round of the competition will take place on Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center. Finalists will be accompanied by the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.

The finals will be open to a public audience. After the competition, there will be an awards ceremony and the winner will be announced.

All finalists are required to provide two copies of the solo part for the judges.

Once a winner is selected, the CSO administration, in conjunction with the designated guest conductor, reserves the right to determine the date, repertoire and length of the winner’s performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Prizes and Awards

  • One winning finalist will be selected to perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 2020/21 concert season.
  • All finalists will have the opportunity to perform onstage with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago during the final round of competition.
  • All finalists will be offered a one-hour lesson with a musician of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Scholarship Funds for Summer Music Camps and Festivals

The Crain-Maling Foundation CSO Young Artists Competition provides financial assistance to attend a music camp or festival in the summer of 2020. Participants may apply for a scholarship to be used at a program for the audition instrument. This funding will be awarded to one or more promising students who the audition judges feel will benefit most from the experience. Secondarily, the issue of a deserving student’s financial need may be considered. See the online application for instructions.  

Lead Sponsor  

For more information, call 312-294-3400 or contact Robert Curl here.

Presented jointly by the League of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association and the Negaunee Music Institute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.