Chamber Music Institute

A unique opportunity to grow as a leader, collaborator, and musician.

In addition to their large ensemble experience, each EYSO student in the Prelude level and higher can participate in EYSO’s Chamber Music Institute as a member of an intimate chamber group. This essential part of a young musician's development teaches skills that improve both solo and large ensemble playing: each player is both a soloist and team member at the same time. Playing chamber music sharpens vital listening skills and provides invaluable musicianship training.

Typically, one third or more of EYSO members are enrolled in the Chamber Music Institute. Each ensemble meets for one hour (Youth Symphony ensembles may meet for 75 to 90 minutes) every Sunday and has a regular coach. Coaches are some of the most skilled educators and performers in the Chicago area and have a great passion for teaching. In addition to two main concerts per season, CMI ensembles are invited to perform at community concerts throughout the area.

Students not currently enrolled in EYSO large ensembles but interested in a chamber music experience are encouraged to apply.


Honors Chamber Ensembles

The four Honors Chamber Ensembles (HCEs) offer an unparalleled opportunity for advanced high school and college aged musicians to play chamber music at the highest level while working with some of the finest artist-educators and chamber music coaches in the nation. As premier ensembles and ambassadors of CMI and EYSO, the four Honors Chamber Ensembles (Maud Powell String Quartet, Hanson String Quartet, Sterling Brass Quintet, and Earl Clemens Wind Quintet) maintain active and high-profile performing schedules.

The HCEs are auditioned ensembles drawn from Youth Symphony students who apply in the spring to take part the following season. After completing a rigorous application, audition, and interview process, the ensembles are formed to share the highest level of artistic achievement at EYSO with our students, families, and the wider community. The HCEs have longer coachings, are active August through May, rehearse every week on their own, and take on extra performance opportunities. Primary HCE coaches include Chicago Symphony violist Max Raimi, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra cellist Tim Archbold, Chicago Sinfonietta trumpet player Matt Lee, and Orion Ensemble clarinetist Kathy Pirtle. The HCEs also work frequently with prominent guest coaches, including principal players from orchestras around the region and professional chamber musicians. The HCEs are supported by the generosity of sponsors and are offered tuition-free.

Applications are now open for the 2024-25 Honors Chamber Ensembles. To learn more and fill out an application, click here.

For information about the Honors Chamber Ensembles, please contact Matthew Sheppard.

CMI rehearsals are Sundays, before or after large ensemble rehearsals. Rehearsals for the 2023-24 CMI Fall session begin Sunday, September 17, 2023. After the November concert, rehearsals resume on Sunday, January 14, 2024.

Chamber Music Institute concerts are November 12, 2023 and April 14, 2024. For more CMI concert information, please click here.

CMI membership and tuition is for the whole season, September through April. Tuition assistance and payment plans are available. Click here for complete 2023-24 tuition information.

For 2024-25 CMI dates, review the 2024-25 Season Calendar. For 2024-25 tuition information, click here.


Summer Chamber Music Camp

Challenge yourself in a chamber music setting while discovering a deeper approach to learning music. Work directly with an internationally acclaimed string quartet. Meet new people and learn something about yourself. Learn more here.

Frequently Asked Questions

1What is Chamber Music?
Chamber music is a type of music played in small groups, with only one person per part, without a conductor. It’s a great way to make friends, learn to lead, and build teamwork skills. CMI groups generally have 3-5 students per ensemble.
2Who is eligible to join CMI?
Students at the Prelude, Sinfonia, Philharmonia, and Youth Symphony levels are eligible for CMI. Students not enrolled in an EYSO orchestra are able to join, too! We’ll just need an audition in order to place you in an appropriate ensemble. Any orchestral instrument is welcome.
3Do I have to play in an EYSO orchestra to participate in CMI?
No, you don't have to be part of an EYSO orchestra to participate. You just need to audition to be placed in an appropriate ensemble. Any orchestral instrument is welcome.
4How do I sign up for CMI?
When you enroll in EYSO, you can declare your interest in CMI. An invoice will be generated and you can confirm your participation by taking action on the invoice before the beginning of September. If you missed the deadline, you can still submit a payment and be considered on the CMI waitlist. Alternatively, you can email to get the process started.
5Can I request to be placed in a group with my friend?
Yes, you can send an email before the beginning of September to make a placement request. Although no guarantees, requests are usually accommodated.
6How much music will I have to learn?
Most groups perform 5-7 minutes of music on the concert at the end of each semester (10mins for YS level groups). CMI is more about a “deep dive” into one or two movements rather than performing large amounts of music. This makes the practice commitment very manageable!
7When do I find out who is in my group?
After registration closes in early September, we work hard at recruiting any last-minute additional students to fill out ensembles in order to create groups that can access the best repertoire. Typically, we’re ready to announce groups a day or two after EYSO’s Kickoff day.
8What are the dates of CMI rehearsals?
See the season calendar here. for full season information. CMI has a shorter semester, so just watch for the “CMI begins” and “CMI Concerts” dates to see the start and end date of each semester.
9What time will my CMI group rehearse?
CMI has a slightly shorter semester than EYSO orchestras, beginning the week after orchestra begins and wrapping up a few weeks earlier.

Our standard* rehearsal times are:
Sinfonia groups: 1:40-2:30 OR 2:00-3:00
Philharmonia groups: 3:20-3:20 OR 2:00-3:00
Prelude groups: 3:25-4:20
Youth Symphony groups: 4:30-6:00

*The exact schedule changes from year to year based on the number of groups we’re able to build. To make the coaching schedule work, on rare occasions, we have scheduled Sinfonia or Philharmonia groups with a 5:30 start time; or Youth Symphony groups with a 4:00 start time.
10When do CMI dress rehearsals take place?
The exact schedule is announced a few weeks into the semester. Please plan extra flexibility on CMI concert day; usually the group’s warm-up time will be earlier than their usual rehearsal time.
11Are Chamber Music Institute groups different from the Honors Chamber Ensembles? Which one am I signing up for?
Yes! EYSO is proud to have 20+ “Standard” CMI ensembles every year, PLUS four Honors Chamber Ensembles (HCEs). When you indicate that you’re interested in chamber music through your application, you’re indicating interest in a “Standard” CMI group. “Standard” CMI groups rehearse with a primary coach on Sundays before orchestra rehearsals and perform in a recital at the end of each semester. It’s designed to be a manageable time commitment to take on, while introducing students to a love and understanding of chamber music. For more information on the Honors Chamber Ensembles, please look above the Frequently Asked Questions.
12How much does CMI cost?
See the EYSO Tuition document here. Please note that payment plans and tuition assistance are available; we don’t want cost to be a barrier for participation.
13I have an invoice in my account for CMI, but I’ve decided I don’t want to participate.
That’s fine! No need to take any action on the invoice if you don’t wish to be placed in a group, but please do let us know that you've changed your mind. We hope to see you in a chamber group another time.