Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra Audition Piece

Edited: November 9, 2020, 12:36 PM · Hey. I am fourteen years old and I have been playing the violin for about eight to nine years. Right now, I am pretty proficient in pieces such as the first movement of Mendelssohn's Concerto in E Minor, Partita No. 2 by Bach (including the chaconne, which like nobody can play well btw), Chaconne in G Minor by Vitali, Mozart Concerto No. 5, and Intro to Rondo Capriccioso. First of all, am I good enough to get into the symphony, or top tier of CYSO, and secondly, which pieces should I perform at the audition? I was thinking Vitali's Chaconne and the opening of Mendelssohn in order to get into the symphony orchestra. What do you think?

Replies (28)

November 9, 2020, 10:59 AM · The last page I&RC if you can manage it well, for your fast piece. It's going to be significantly more difficult than the rest of your proposed repertoire.

You could play the 2nd movement of either the Mendelssohn or the Mozart 5. Nice for showing off clean slow-movement technique.

November 9, 2020, 11:12 AM · I have had two kids in CYSO, one who is age 11 and currently in Debut, and one currently 15 who left CYSO after 7th grade because he needed something more comprehensive and challenging. (He went to MIC Academy, which is something you might also want to consider if you are VERY serious.)

If you play your pieces very well, yes, you could get into Symphony Orchestra. However, CYSO has a long tradition of placing younger and less experienced players conservatively, which means you may be placed in a lower orchestra your first year in the program. This could be Concert or Philharmonic, depending on how well you play your pieces. There is also an excerpt you will need to play.

Personally, I would play what you play best. To me, the Mendelssohn and Saint Saens are in a very different league from the Vitali Chaconne, so I would pick one of those if you can play them well. Either some Bach or Mozart would be a nice contrast. People usually either do a fast/slow pairing, or a Romantic/not Romantic pairing.

Let me know if you have any more questions. I have a lot of experience with CYSO between my two kids.

Edited: November 10, 2020, 9:23 PM · The opening of Mendelssohn is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things to land cleanly in an audition, especially if you get nervous easily. Those octaves trip up even the best players. The problem is that they are on the first page, and you don't have much time to get your hands warmed up.
November 11, 2020, 1:11 PM · @Frieda

Interestingly enough, Heifetz was of the same opinion. OP should at least count their blessings that they aren't being forced to keep time with a piano.

Edited: November 22, 2020, 3:53 PM · As from ~ Elisabeth Matesky Member Solti/CSO - Carrier of the Heifetz-Milstein Violin Legacy

Re ~ **Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra Audition Piece **

Young Christopher Cockroach's opinion re 'which like nobody can play well, btw ...' shows a lack of awareness of Greatest Unaccompanied Bach Violin Sonatas & Partitas Great Artists including my late Violin Mentor of 3 & 1/2 years, privately, in London, Nathan Milstein, and his utter artistic & spiritual mastery of All Six, and especially the Second Partita of Bach in d minor great Chaconne! If Christopher Cockroach {is this last name real!!?} makes blanket statements, he is in true need of teaching from those who know the concert violin + orchestral repertoire having toured globally & recorded both quite extensively!!

Having numerous int'l pupil's here at the Original American Conservatory of Music of over 100 years age, and in London at Trinity College of Music, & now TLC of Music & Dance/London, & at the Sibelius Academy of Music in Helsinki, Finland, I can authentically state the Unaccompanied Sonatas & Partitas of Bach Are and have been performed & recorded More than Well and Beyond Praise by Nathan Milstein, Grammy Award Winner for Bach.

Some of my ACM pupil's were in the Civic Orchestra, the training orchestra of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, serving as Concertmaster & Principle Chairs of String Cousin Sections! The **CYSO came into being much later after the 100 yr old Civic, as a training orchestra for mainly junior & senior high school musicians ~ It has grown in reputation as more Jr./Sr. Hi school young musicians who had auditioned for the Civic & not ready, have now wished to audition for the *CYSO. The Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in e minor is considered a 'perfect violin concerto' by both my Iconic Mentor's, Jascha Heifetz and Nathan Milstein ... This is Not to suggest it not be selected as an Orchestra audition 1st Mov't Violin Concerto, but it requires nerves of enormous control, hallmarks of a sure footed violin technique & refined Bow Arm! From the impression I'm sensing, young Christopher will require more experience playing the 1st Mov't Mendelssohn for people in easy public situations to iron out 'bumps' in his Mendelssohn & to finely smooth bow the Mendelssohn 1st Mov't and Under Pressure of Audition ~ He will also need to play 1 Mov't of a Sonata or Partita of Unaccompanied Bach & I would suggest the Opening Mov't of either the Sonata #1 in g minor Adagio, or Sonata #2 in a minor, Opening Movement or if truly rhythmically controlled and melodic, the 4th Mov't of the a minor Second Bach Unaccompanied Violin Sonata. Also now mandatory are Orchestral Excerpts which usually require a Mov't or sections of a Mozart Symphony; Schumann's Symphony #2 Scherzo for sure & a few excerpts of Don Juan + other orchestral literature & I must add, it depends on which Violin section young Christopher wishes to play for?? Violin I or Violin II?? Repertoire is selected by the Conductor & usually depends on upcoming already Season Public Scheduled Concert Repertoire. At present, in this pandemic, I'm not sure any LIVE in PERSON CYSO Auditions will be held. They might allow online submitted examples of Jr./Sr. Hi players seeking to be Members of the *CYSO, but one must check with the *CYSO website to get all relevant Information and for a partial Concert Season in 2021, which may not be known at this time due to the nightmare of Covid-19.

In the interim, I recommend Christopher study Dont Etudes for dexterity of the left hand & bowing skills plus a complete exacting review of Schradieck and a few 'gentle' Paganini Caprices starting w/the Perpetual Mobile slowly &'when once controlled with the piano, plus Paganini Caprice #20 ~ If these RX'd works can become part and parcel of Christopher Cockroach's studies in technical-musical knowledge to play minus scratch and beauty of sound plus sensitive sense of phrasing, he will be in a much better state of being 'Violin Ready' to prepare the 1st Mov't Mendelssohn & a movement from either of the 2 Bach Solo Sonatas mentioned above. If reading this, your work is cut out for you, Christopher, with an Invite you listen to All Bach Unaccompanied Sonatas & Partitas of Nathan Milstein to step into an as yet unknown world and musical environment which will enlighten you as a violinist and be a Guide for Life to aspire to the Greatest Violinists of All of
Time, both of whom mentored me and for significant amounts of time ~

I wish you well and certainly during this devastating pandemic which is a horrendous challenge to 14 yr olds & all other teenage aspiring musicians trying to PRACTISE unsupervised or if under some instruction, for a limited time & usually not in person. This is Tough on All & I hope Christopher C., will take my post here most sincerely!! For Reference on my own Musical Career visit ~

Wishing young violinist, Christopher Cockroach, musical greetings ~

Elisabeth Matesky ~ aka, Elisabeth Anne Matesky only on Facebook

Chicago, USA / London, UK

November 21, 2020

November 21, 2020, 8:45 PM · As originally a native Chicagoan myself...

The CYSO and the Civic have never been orchestras in the same general category for young musicians. The Civic is the CSO's training orchestra, attracting young professionals. (Rachel Barton Pine did play in the Civic as a teenager, but she was already freelancing as a pro then, and she was, as far as I know, the lone exception.)

At its origin, the CYSO was an orchestra for pre-professional high school students. It has never allowed students past high school, and in its early days, never accepted children under high school age.

Over time (the past three decades or so), like many successful youth symphonies, the CYSO added multiple prep orchestras, and today, it serves kids as young as elementary schoolers. Its mission is entirely focused on youth education through high school.

The Civic, by contrast, is a paid part-time professional symphony. It has a training mission, and provides paid fellowships, and there is a three-year limit on how long you can be a member. Members are normally grad students or recently-graduated professionals (they require a high school diploma and discourage undergrads from auditioning due to likely scheduling conflicts with a bachelor's program).

There's ZERO overlap between the Civic and the CYSO. To quote Ms Matesky, "More young musicians who have auditioned for the Civic & not ready, have wished to audition for the CYSO." -- this statement is simply wrong. You must have graduated from high school in order to be able to audition for the Civic. If you have graduated from high school, you are not eligible to audition for any CYSO orchestras.

CYSO, as far as I know, does not assign students to violin 1 or 2 under normal circumstances (other than the first two stands of violin 1) -- or at least it didn't in the past. It rotates members between the two sections. (And in nearly all professional symphonies, you don't audition for violin 1 or 2; you are a section violinist and you get whatever position is open.)

November 21, 2020, 10:05 PM · Lydia - you are right about everything with one exception -- SOME of the orchestras do assign violin 1 or 2 for each concert cycle and do not rotate. This is primarily in the younger orchestras, though it varies somewhat by conductor and year. However, no matter where you end up, you always get to reaudition for seating in both the fall (August) and winter (January), and this year it is three times since it is virtual. You can move to the other section depending on how you do. The conductors also divide violin 1 and 2 differently -- in some of the younger orchestras, all the best players are in violin 1. That's not the case in the more advanced ones for obvious reasons.

By the way, I know of a few high schoolers who played in Civic around 30-40 years ago. When I was in college there were a decent number of undergrads who were in Civic. But Lydia is right -- now it is almost entirely grad students and post-grads.

Edited: November 23, 2020, 11:20 PM · Checking the Civic's audition webpage (LINK) they now explicitly state the high school diploma requirement, as well as a minimum age of 18.
Edited: November 23, 2020, 8:21 AM · To ~ Lydia Leong

Re ~ Your harmful statement - 'Ms. Matesky is simply wrong.' 11.22.20

I insist on an apology from Lydia Leong, no longer living in Chicago, & seemingly deliberately seeking to undermine my understanding + violin awareness. You seem an accusatory person not knowing I'm more than fully aware of RBP's Membership in the Civic prior to her '95 Metra Train castastrophic accident w/one of my pupil's, her Violin I stand-mate, from Seoul, So. Korea, being Chicago Sun Times Music Critiqued by Robert C. Marsh, praised for her exquisite Civic Concertmaster Solo's in Zarathustra, along with a violin soloist's fine concerto performance ~ (Btw, quite a few of my Civic Orchestra pupil's have solo engagements outside of their Civic Orchestra duties). I know the original Foundress of the *CYSO, through my teaching of her daughter, and may advise of your remark re my name and professional reputation? I do know the differences between the Civic and the *CYSO and don't think a Diploma is required to Audition from a 14 yr old pupil for *CYSO if, indeed he is 'Violin Ready' as stated in my Reply to Christopher Cockroach ~

Please back off Lydia. You become less by going low ~ more recently in incorrectly listing $ prices re a revered Violin Maker here in Chicago & upon hearing $ amounts not up to date he appreciated an amended listing later. A Word: The Author of this asks about an Audition piece for the Chicago Symphony Youth Orchestra w/No mention of the Civic. *CYSO is now greatly improved & also requiring major orchestral repertoire excerpts in their auditions which you may know about in your City of current residence ...

Truly saddened from Chicago ~

Elisabeth Matesky

November 22, 2020, 3:21 PM · Hmmm...
Edited: November 22, 2020, 5:17 PM · Salty, childish, and arrogant.
November 22, 2020, 6:30 PM · Elisabeth Matesky, what exactly do you expect your artist representative to do when this is brought to their attention??
Edited: November 23, 2020, 10:37 PM · For ~ Christopher Cockroach, 14 yr old Violinist ~ **Time Sensitive** 11.23.20

Re ~ Your Request re Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra Audition Piece

Suggestion ~ Go to American Youth Symphony Auditions online website ASAP --

They are holding online auditions for Strings on *December 6, 2020*.
& you can inquire about music they want you to play. Tho' not much
time, try to get Info to practise your Mendelssohn or a simple piece
to use as a *First Step* to prepare for the Chicago Youth Symphony
Orchestra Audition piece or pieces when the CYSO announces their
Auditions. The American Youth Symphony is all online & rehearsals
are listed if you go to their website. They are located in Naperville, IL,
a nice suburb of Chicago, and accept Jr./Sr. High School students.

Good Luck, Christopher, & get in touch Now, Monday, Nov 23, 2020 ~

Elisabeth Matesky ^

^I replied to your Question above on this past Week end & added my
suggestions for your studies with repertoire also listed. You can see
my Bio ~

Edited: November 23, 2020, 11:51 PM · I will note that I did not bring up the Civic. Ms. Matesky did. I merely quoted her statement, in which she brought up Civic auditions to Christopher (the OP). I am aware that the CYSO presently requires excerpts in the upper orchestras (as noted by Susan in her earlier post) but they are not usually drawn from the common list used by professional symphonies (i.e. Schumann Scherzo, Don Juan, etc.)

CYSO of course does not require a high school diploma since it is specifically for children. The Civic does require a high school diploma at present; it is explicitly not for children. I certainly did not say that you don't know RBP, but I noted that the Civic of thirty years ago (when RBP was part of it) is certainly not the Civic of today. The Civic is a notably finer and more formal preprofessional orchestra than it was decades ago. The exception made for RBP back 30 years ago (when it also had quite a few undergrads only a few years older) has little bearing on their present lack of willingness to accept high school aged students; the Civic presently specifically cites not just a diploma requirement but also a minimum age of 18.

I'm intrigued that you taught the daughter of a CYSO founder. The CYSO was founded in 1946 (about a generation after the Civic, founded in 1919). Google indicates you were born in 1942. That suggests that you probably taught one of the founder's children some 20+ years after the orchestra's founding. Still an interesting reach back into the mid-20th century history of the Chicago music scene.

On the subject of Becker violin prices (ref this thread: LINK) the prices I cited in that thread came from direct prices quoted to me through a New York dealer, for specific violins. Given that, I did not feel any need to correct my assertions, which accurately describe my personal experience. What the Beckers themselves may be selling ancestral inventory for at present time, from their Midwestern locales, does not necessarily relate to selling prices from the east coast dealers. In any event, both Carl F and Carl G's work has deservedly appreciated quite nicely over the years.

Edited: November 28, 2020, 3:46 PM · To ~ Lydia Leong

From ~ Elisabeth Matesky

With all due respect, I am not going to engage with you regarding many ensemble's that young musicians may participate in within the Chicago area. Suffice to say, there are now many such opportunities available to interested violinists and string players.

I wish the very best of luck to young 14 yr old Christopher Cockroach in
his musical endeavour's ~

Elisabeth Matesky *


November 25, 2020, 4:19 PM · If you post wrong information, you can expect to be corrected and can't be too offended when you are.
Edited: November 25, 2020, 10:36 PM · With all due respect, Ms. Matesky, I provided my source links. No engagement is needed, as I am provably, objectively correct. To summarize, with quotes from the cited pages (audition info from these orchestras, not a third-party website):

CYSO: LINK. "Orchestras are open to students who will be entering 1st-12th grade."

Civic: LINK. "To join the Civic Orchestra as a Regular Member an individual must be 18 years of age or older and must have, at minimum, a high school diploma."

November 27, 2020, 9:43 AM · Lydia, To expand on your comment. I have it from a very reliable source that Rachel Barton Pine played in the civic orchestra when she was 11. The person that told me was approx 10 to 15 years older and would take here there. Afterwards, she would have to tag along post rehearsals at the bars he visited with fellow orchestra members. So Rachel hit the bar scene at age 11!
November 27, 2020, 12:57 PM · I've heard some entertaining stories of the Civic from an earlier era. :-)

(Of course back then the drinking age might have been 18, too. I can't recall. I remember the various vice ages being raised during my childhood.)

Edited: November 28, 2020, 3:37 PM · @Arnie Cohen ~

Re ~ Rachel Barton {later Pine}

As from ~ Elisabeth Matesky

Having coached the Civic & knowing much about it since being a Member of Solti's Chicago Symphony Orchestra, it's possible then Rachel née Barton, was early invited into the Civic, and was later on the Violin I Desk {again prior} to her grave Metra Train accident. Having known her many years, when called quite a few times by her very upset Mother re the accident and horrifying injuries, I offered to write about the 'Rachel Barton Benefit' Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim, Concert in Orchestra Hall, held on March 27, 1995, which began at 7:30 PM, here in Chicago, for the Strad Magazine in London. In fact, then Strad Magazine NY Editor, Dennis Rooney, flew in from NYC, attending it with me ~

Rachel, in a Nurse guided wheelchair, and deeply pale plus fragile, was overjoyed by the beautiful gesture of all of our CSO colleagues & our then Music Director, Daniel Barenboim, for their offering such a heartfelt gratis concert to raise monies to help w/Rachel's astronomical medical costs ... After gently speaking w/Rachel & Mom, I went downstairs to show several of my CSO colleague/friends a number of photographs we'd just been given by photographer's and asked them, now late 1st Violinist, Betty Lambert & 'Cellist, Margie Evans, to help me in deciding which of several photographs would by best for the Strad Magazine article being submitted.

(Knowing one of the main physicians on her case, I later learned of truly overwhelming physical/emotional challenges Rachel was and would have to address) ~ She has prevailed in heroic fashion and earned the respect plus empathy of all of us, now playing many concerts internationally & also recording with great Grit and Bravura ... As to her age of 11 when entering the Civic, I can check with her main teacher ... But to be sure, this travesty occurred when she was very young living in a Chicago suburb, traveling with her violin in its case on a Metra Train, the details of which are so deeply upsetting, I will now leave off & wish you plus your dear one's the very best of health over this Thanksgiving Week end in Wisconsin ...

~ Yours musically from Chicago ~

........ Elisabeth Matesky .......

Saturday, November 28, 2020

November 30, 2020, 1:27 AM · Christopher, hmm.

I would recommend Mendelssohn if you are a very good violinist. But Vitali if you are lacking a little bit in musicality and on good sound to show off left hand tech more.

Sometimes it is better not to go to top level because there are prep students who are winning a lot of local or national competitions at CYSO. Unless you are using a nickname here, I have not seen your name in Chicago competitions. You will run into kids who have won big name Chicago competitions even at lower orchestras in their age group at CYSO. I think someone here mentioned that CYSO tries to keep students with age group and I have noticed that trend most definitely.

So it is not that important that you place at the top orchestra but to learn since you are young and to have fun with your age group. It might be more beneficial for you to aim at concertmaster position at your age level orchestra. But also know another prep student that made to top CYSO at 14 and she was having so much fun there but her name was all over competitions and she was very mature.

Also if this is first time at the major orchestras and if your sight reading is not strong, you might struggle. I have seen 14 year olds who won competitions but could not keep up with orchestra music and the student had to quit.

So try to focus learning to make music with fellow students and chance to learn from different opportunities given at CYSO is more important rather than trying to place at the top level.

I just wanted to give you few example students without revealing their names. It is case by case but sometimes we forget why we compete or audition. It is to learn.

And I feel that the comments should be focused on helping the 14 year old student who is so passionate that looked up this site to ask questions but not to boast one’s knowledge or credentials.

November 30, 2020, 8:44 AM · I must note, on Michelle's point about competitions, that in any given city, the same relatively small cadre of students win all the competitions, if the judges are competent (which is not always a given). Even if you run into competition winners, the cadre is small enough that it's only a tiny fraction of the violinists in any given orchestra. i.e. if you lack a competition-winning track record, don't let that discourage you from auditioning.
Edited: November 30, 2020, 10:56 AM · I would actually disagree that there are currently a lot of violin competition winners in the top ensembles of CYSO. In fact, there are very few and only two I can think of in the top ensemble. (Both are somewhat unusual cases as well, one due to age.) Most of the high school age kids winning competitions in Chicago no longer participate in CYSO. Most leave around age 13-15 because the time commitment is just too much and they need to work more on solo repertoire and chamber music.

There are more kids in the lower ensembles doing and winning competitions, but still not a large number. It's a handful. There are plenty of kids in CYSO like my younger one who plays well for her age but has absolutely zero interest in competitions.

November 30, 2020, 2:09 PM · Susan's point is an interesting one. For most serious students who go on to professional careers (or simply continue playing as amateurs), orchestral playing is where they'll spend the majority of their time. I feel like the orchestral skills that I learned in CYSO, especially, and to a lesser extent other youth ensembles, have served me well my whole life. And I thank my teachers from my teen years for also teaching me the most common audition excerpts.
Edited: November 30, 2020, 9:22 PM · That is likely true. The general feeling around my son's program is that they will have plenty of time to learn the orchestral repertoire in college and they are better off focusing on advancing their individual technique now. This doesn't mean they don't do orchestra at all -- they still have weekly chamber orchestra, just for less time. It's definitely less intense than CYSO. The top ensemble in CYSO typically has 3-5 hours rehearsal each week, with lots of music to prepare. CYSO kids typically do need to practice their music quite a bit, and that takes up limited practice hours.

Having said all that, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that a lot of the kids who have thus far come out of my son's program have ended up having careers more focused in chamber music or solo. Also, most of them make it to the top levels in CYSO ensembles before they even are in HS, so they are still developing those skills, just earlier on.

Edited: December 1, 2020, 11:04 AM · I'm thinking that it's not so much (largely not at all) learning the repertoire itself, which is a lifetime endeavour, and more about learning orchestral ensemble skills -- how to produce an orchestral sound and blend, how to make an ultra-precise section sound (something which even second-tier professional ensembles may not do well), how to choose bowstrokes for good large-section articulation, how to listen across the room and compensate for acoustic delays, etc.

Yes, orchestral skills may be less relevant for the true superstars, and chamber-music skills are sometimes applicable to orchestral playing as well, but only a tiny percentage of even students in top programs will go on to careers where they never play in orchestras. (Especially in a later career phase; a lot of people who start out in quartets or as young soloists end up transitioning into full-time orchestras in their thirties.)

December 1, 2020, 6:23 PM · Lydia, that totally resonates with me.

I largely only teach chamber music and orchestra these days, and have moved away from working on solo repertoire with individual students all the time. The reality is that less than 1% of the players I meet will go on to solo careers, but an overwhelming majority of students, if their collaborative skills in section and quartet playing can be developed strongly, will enjoy making music with people for the rest of their lives. High quality community orchestras are a delight--and so many of us have come to grieve the loss of the musical networks that used to provide artistic sustenance for those whose careers are in other fields.

December 3, 2020, 4:08 PM · Just play what your comfortable playing. Bach sounds good. If you play viola, consider auditioning on that instrument too.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

House of Rosin
House of Rosin

Holiday Shopping Business Directory
Holiday Shopping Business Directory Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

ARIA International Summer Academy

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine