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Chicago Civic Orchestra

Discussion in 'Orchestral Auditions [DB]' started by filrich, Jan 21, 2007.

  1. filrich


    Oct 14, 2006
    Anyone know about or had experience with the Chicago Civic Orchestra?
  2. Civic is essentially the training orchestra for the Chicago Symphony. All sections recieve coaching from CSO members, so Joe Guastafeste (Principal Bassist) coaches the basses. Clif Colnot (who was a student of Barenboim) directs the orchestra, but they frequently have big name guest conductors come in for concerts.

    The only pay for the orchestra is a $6300 stipend because all of the concerts are free. In essence you're being paid for more orchestral training, which is pretty sweet.

    I'm nearly positive there's an age limit for the members, but I'm not exactly sure what it is. Most of the members are in or have completed graduate school, but there a few undergraduates.

    Auditions are held every year in around February, and I believe even returning members are put into the same audition pool, so there's no unfair advantage. The deadline for applying for this year's auditions just passed a few days ago. The rep for the bass audition has changed like once in the past 20 years, so if you didn't apply this year, there shouldn't be anything stopping you from preparing for the audition next year.

    I'm not in civic, but a couple of my old teachers are currently in it. I have never auditioned for it and regretably won't be auditioning this year either (wouldn't have been able to prepare enough in time), so I can't tell you what the actual audition is like.

    For more info, check here: http://www.cso.org/main.taf?p=2,4
  3. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    I played in the Civic when I was a senior in high school, 1970-71. It was one of the greatest experiences in my life. Besides the great repertoire and conductors and the coaching from Joe Guastafeste, I got to turn pages for, and look up the section at, some fantastic players, who that year included Hal Robinson (current Philly principal) ; Scott Haigh (Cleveland asst principal); Rufus Reid (who could have played in any "Big Five" orchestra); Jon Haskell (Suisse Romande asst principal); Mark Kramer and Steve Lester (Chicago Symphony); and some other great bassists.

    Back then, there was no stipend. But I'd have paid to play.
  4. Cosmos


    Sep 21, 2006
    New York, NY
    About how many bassists audition for Civic each year?
  5. Aram


    Feb 2, 2003
    New York, NY
    I played in Civic as well, from 1997-2000, and it was awesome. We got to play under Barenboim, Boulez, Neema Jaarvi, Mistislav Rostropovitch, and a few other notables which was great. We were supposed to play under Solti my first year, but unfortunately he passed away that September :(

    GreyBassGuy and Pete G are spot on with their descriptions. I didn't know they pay over $6k now, though...it was only like $4k /year when I was in there I think...maybe even less. I don't know about the age limit, but there wasn't anyone over late-30s.

    As far as number of bassists auditioning, that really varies...but I seem to remember around 20-30.

    Overall it was a great experience, and I highly recommend auditioning. If you need the excerpts, I probably have them laying around somewhere and can dig them up. PM me if you're interested.

  6. jasonheath

    jasonheath Bass Blogger / Contrabass Conversations host

    Aug 11, 2006
    Chicago IL
    Hey, Aram! Long time no see! I was also in the Civic Orchestra (1998-2000) and really enjoyed it. The big problem is that the stipend isn't enough to live on. If you are in graduate school, you can get a fellowship with one of the local universities for free tuition.

    I had a guest on my podcast 'Contrabass Conversations' talk a lot about Civic recently. Here is a link to the episode:

    Contrabass Conversations Episode 5 - Interview with Phillip Serna

    It was a good interview. Phil was in Civic for three (maybe even four) years, and he had a good time with it as well. It is a lot of work for not a lot of money, so I'd think long and hard about it f you aren't trying to tie it into a graduate school program. If you're in grad school, however, it is a great deal (Northwestern's going for over $40,000 a year these days--free tuition isn't a bad scene).
  7. Aram


    Feb 2, 2003
    New York, NY

    !!!! Jason, what's up man?! Totally didn't expect to see your name pop up. I'm sending you a PM.
  8. Cosmos


    Sep 21, 2006
    New York, NY
    Are you sure? A friend of mine told me that last year the list included Heldenleben and Mozart 40. This year, however, it's Beethoven 7, Symphonie Fantastique, Mozart 35, and Don Juan. Maybe my friend was wrong?
  9. Well the one time they changed it was like two years ago, so he's probably right.

    I'm fairly certain last year's audition rep was the same as this year's, but I could be wrong.
  10. jasonheath

    jasonheath Bass Blogger / Contrabass Conversations host

    Aug 11, 2006
    Chicago IL
    For years the audition list was the same:

    Bach mvt of choice
    Beethoven 5 & 9
    Mozart 40
    Ein Heldenleben
    Mahler 1
    Prokofiev Lt. Kije
    Stravinsky Pulcinella

    I believe that they recently added Beethoven 7 and took some other stuff out like was mentioned above.
  11. Jon Stefaniak

    Jon Stefaniak Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2000
    Tokyo, Japan
    I've been playing in civic for the last 3 years... I'll be there next year too. If you have any specific questions, I could probably help answer them.
  12. Cory Palmer

    Cory Palmer Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2006
    Pittsburgh, PA
    What is the rehearsal schedule like for Chicago Civic? Do they get together only on the weeks they perform and have a schedule like a professional orchestra or do they have a schedule more like a college orchestra where they get together 2 or 3 times a week in the afternoons?
  13. Jon Stefaniak

    Jon Stefaniak Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2000
    Tokyo, Japan
    I'd say it is somewhere between the two. We rehearse as much as a college orchestra, but if there is no concert for a while, we don't rehearse. The rehearsals are from 7-10pm during the week and 6-9 on sunday. Saturday rehearsals are usually 2-5... or 1-4. There is an occasional dreaded double rehearsal some sundays or Saturdays.
  14. Cosmos


    Sep 21, 2006
    New York, NY
    Thought I'd bring this thread back up...

    Anyone know when the new Civic audition rep list will be posted?

    Also, is it true that Civic musicians can only play in Civic for 3 years maximum now?
  15. Jon Stefaniak

    Jon Stefaniak Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2000
    Tokyo, Japan
    2 years
  16. Cosmos


    Sep 21, 2006
    New York, NY
    anyone auditioning this year? i'll probably be at the auditions at depaul.
  17. Cosmos


    Sep 21, 2006
    New York, NY
    Anyone taking the auditions this month?

    Mine is on the 26th in Chicago.
  18. Hoyt5String


    Apr 27, 2005
    Memphis, TN
    I played there for a year. I would say that it largely depends on your situation.

    Jason's post is spot on. I'll allow myself to be a little more negative though, because you deserve both sides.

    The money isn't much and Civic's strict attendance policy will prevent you from doing many outside gigs. You WILL be busy once things get started up. You'll have time for a day job or the occasional morning church gig and that's about it. That being said, the orchestra is really good and the finished product is always excellent, along with the experience of being able to play in Symphony Center. So it's up to you whether you think it's worth it.

    One more thing, Cliff Colnot, the conductor there is a love him or hate him type of guy. I personally thought he was great for the job and really knows how to prepare the orchestra for the guest conductors you will have coming in, but that opinion varies widely.
  19. sensorydata


    Nov 26, 2012
    Can anybody who is in a position to *actually* know, tell me like the minimum guaranteed number of bass openings or similar information for the Civic for the 2013-2014 season? It would help me to determine whether auditioning is a good use of my time (for instance if there is 1 opening I'm not going to bother, whereas if there are 6 I will). Thanks in advance for any good responses. SD
  20. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008
    Read post #2. It says that even the people who won the audition last year have to re-audition.