Applications for the Civic Orchestra of Chicago’s 19/20 season are open.

Live Audition Application Deadline: 
11:59 p.m. Central Time on Friday, January 11, 2019

Video Audition Application Deadline: 
11:59 p.m. Central Time on Friday, February 15, 2019

A $90.00 non-refundable application fee applies.


About the Civic Orchestra

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 season-long 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. 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 twenty-first century. Below is a current list of Civic coaches that work directly with Civic members each season:

Robert Chen, Concertmaster
Baird Dodge, Principal Second Violin
Li-Kuo Chang, Assistant Principal Viola
John Sharp, Principal Cello
Alexander Hanna, Principal Bass
Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson, Principal Flute
Scott Hostetler, Oboe/English Horn
Stephen Williamson, Principal Clarinet
William Buchman, Assistant Principal Bassoon
Daniel Gingrich, Acting Principal Horn
Mark Ridenour, Acting Principal Trumpet
Jay Friedman, Principal Trombone
Charles Vernon, Bass Trombone
Gene Pokorny, Principal Tuba
David Herbert, Principal Timpani
Vadim Karpinos, Assistant Principal Timpani
Cynthia Yeh, Principal Percussion
Sarah Bullen, Principal Harp
Mary Sauer, Former Principal Keyboard
Peter Conover, Principal Librarian

Civic musicians also expand their creative, professional and artistic boundaries and reach diverse audiences through educational performances at Chicago Public Schools, creative projects, and a series of chamber concerts at Symphony Center and in various neighborhood venues throughout the city including Chicago Park District field houses, the National Museum of Mexican Art, and Zhou B Art Center.

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. 

To further expand its musician training, the Civic Orchestra launched the Civic Fellowship program in the 2013–14 season. Now engaging fifteen 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 is a signature program of the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which offers a wide range of education and community engagement programs that reach 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

The Civic Orchestra Fellowship and Regular & Associate Membership


Regular Membership

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. 

The Civic Orchestra presents 7-8 concerts at Symphony Center and 2-3 performances in neighborhood venues, including schools., Some seasons also include 2-3 open rehearsals with CSO Music Director Riccardo Muti and other guest conductors. Additionally, each season there are side-by-side rehearsals, coaching sessions, mock auditions and private lessons with CSO musicians, reading sessions with guest conductors, career development workshops, master classes with CSO guest artists as opportunities arise, and numerous opportunities throughout the season to play chamber music. 

Each regular member of the Civic Orchestra will receive a stipend of $8,500 in the 2019/20 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. Members may also audition for an optional third year of membership, provided they maintain good standing in the first two years of membership and are successful in their audition. 


Civic Fellowship Program

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 empowers participants to realize their full potential as artistically excellent, collaborative, civically-engaged, and entrepreneurial musicians.

There may be up to 15 Civic Fellows in 19/20. Fellowship auditions are open to new, incoming Civic members (for up to a two-season term, concluding as late as June 2021) as well as to current Civic Regular Members who are advancing to their second or third year in the orchestra.   

Fellowship auditions are open to the following instruments: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, percussion, violin, viola, cello, and bass. Depending upon the matriculation of current fellows, fellowships may not be available for select instruments in 19/20. 

Civic members selected for the Fellowship will receive an all-inclusive annual stipend of $17,000 as compensation for their participation as Civic Fellows and as regular members of Civic. 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. Civic Fellows have approximately 20-25 hours of work per week, inclusive of Civic Orchestra duties. The 2019/20 Civic Fellowship curriculum will consist of the following:   

  • • Serve as leaders within the Civic Orchestra, taking on expanded roles in community-focused projects of the full orchestra
  • • Meet regularly as a cohort with staff to plan and reflect on Fellowship activity
  • • Design, curate and perform in mixed-ensemble chamber music concerts in Symphony Center and community venues throughout greater Chicago. Mentor young classical 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 musicians of the CSO and other guest artists
  • • Participate in training that further develops public speaking, fundraising, artistic planning, classroom management, and advocacy skills. 


Associate Membership (Substitute/Extras List)

Musicians accepted as Associate Members are offered a one-season associate membership only, and are contacted on an as-needed basis as extra/substitute musicians. An Associate Member may be called upon to fill a vacant position in the event a Regular Member leaves a position during the season. Compensation for each concert cycle is a per-project basis and the amount of stipend offered to Associate Members will vary based on the length of concert cycles. The Civic Orchestra does not provide reimbursement for travel or accommodation expenses. International Associate Members will need to provide proof of eligibility to work in the United States for the duration of the services agreed upon. The Civic Orchestra is unable to offer any visa sponsorship for Associate Members.  

See eligibility requirements below. 

Civic Orchestra Membership and Eligibility


Members of Civic Orchestra must be 18 years of age 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 accommodate 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. Once chosen, Civic Fellows may not be enrolled in a degree, diploma, or certificate program at any time during their fellowship. Applicants enrolled in a degree or certificate program may only apply for Regular or Associate Membership.

2019/20 auditions are open to new, incoming Civic members (for a two-season term, concluding as late as June 2021) as well as to current Civic Regular Members who are advancing to their second or third year in the orchestra (for a season-by-season basis).   

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 April 5, 2019.


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. Accepted forms of visas include F-1 status (with CPT or OPT), O-1 status, or Permanent Residency (Green Card).

Audition Information

Live Audition Application Deadline:
11:59 p.m. Central Time on Friday, January 11, 2019

Video Audition Application Deadline:
11:59 p.m. Central Time on Friday, February 15, 2019

A $90.00 non-refundable application fee applies.


Audition Repertoire

Please click here for audition repertoire lists.



Live auditions for the 2019-2020 Civic season will be held in cities listed below. Please note applicants will play the list of solos/excerpts for a video recording at these locations to be reviewed at a later date by musicians of the CSO. Live audition applications are open only to violin, viola, cello, double bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, bass trombone, and tuba. Harp applicants must submit a video audition. Percussion, timpani, and keyboard applicants: please see below for instructions. Please note the application deadline for live auditions is Friday, January 11, 2019. 

Live audition applications and time slots will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis after the Civic application has been submitted via Acceptd. As there are limited time slots available for live auditions, applicants will be notified via email on or before January 18, 2019 whether or not they have been granted a live audition. Applicants who do not receive a live audition time slot may still submit their own video recording as part of their application on Acceptd. No walk-in auditions allowed. Please note due to the volume of applications and limited time for review, comments will not be provided for applicants. The application fee of $90 is non-refundable.


Live Auditions 2019:

Boston — February 10–11
Chicago — February 1, 4, 5 (additional dates may be added pending number of applicants)
New York — February 13–14
Cleveland — February TBA
Oberlin — February 8
Percussion* — April 26 in Chicago (live audition is for finalists only, see instructions below)
Timpani — May 3 in Chicago (all rounds will be held on this date)
Keyboard — March 11 in Chicago

*Percussion applicants must submit a video recorded audition as the preliminary round. Applicants who are selected as finalists will be notified as such by Friday, March 8, 2019, and will be required to audition live at Symphony Center in Chicago on April 26, 2019. No walk-in auditions will be accepted.

All timpani and keyboard applicants must audition live at Symphony Center. Please see above for audition dates. 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.


Click here to apply for the 2019/20 Civic Orchestra Season. 

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 short introduction video. (required of all applicants, see note below)

6. 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?

7. Request a live audition time slot, or record and upload a video audition.


Interview Video Requirements:

  • • Begin the separate interview 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 be 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. 

Video Audition 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. Please note due to the volume of applications and limited time for review, comments will not be provided for applicants.

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.



Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra listen and view all live and submitted video auditions. The reviewers expect high quality video recordings that are the best possible representation of an 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

The Civic Orchestra is not accepting Library Fellowship Applications at this time. Please continue to check here for updates.