Founded in 1919 by Frederick Stock, second music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), the Civic Orchestra of Chicago prepares emerging professional musicians for lives in music. Civic members participate in rigorous orchestral training, September through June each season, with Principal Conductor Ken-David Masur, musicians of the CSO, and some of today’s most luminary conductors including 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 twenty-first 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, excerpts from Civic Orchestra performances can be heard locally on WFMT (98.7 FM) and www.wfmt.com.
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. Each year ten to fifteen Civic members are designated as Civic Fellows and participate in intensive leadership training that is designed to build and diversity their creative and professional skills.
The Civic Orchestra’s long history of presenting full orchestra performances free to the public includes annual concerts at the South Shore Cultural Center (in partnership with the South Shore Advisory Council) 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.