Large Ensembles

TUITION-FREE CONSERVATORY ENSEMBLES AND PROGRAMS

Below you will find descriptions of Merit’s Tuition-free Conservatory large ensembles and programs. Please note: Although grade level information is included to serve as a general guideline, students are placed according to their level of musicianship.

Students must audition for entrance into a specific ensemble or program. If accepted, they are required to participate in a comprehensive, daylong program consisting of a large ensemble, music theory class, musicianship/instrumental group class, weekly recital hour, and electives (chamber music, other large ensembles, composition, etc.).

Junior Band

Under the direction of David Allie, the Junior Band is the entry level band for the Conservatory. It is comprised of up to 80 winds, brass, and percussion students who are generally in 6th – 8th grades.

Symphonic Band

The Symphonic Band is an advanced wind group. It is comprised of up to 80 wind, brass and percussion students who are generally in 8th – 10th grades. Programming consists of challenging high-school repertoire.

Wind Symphony

The Wind Symphony is one of Merit’s premiere ensembles. The Wind Symphony provides a rigorgous experience for talented and motivated young musicians, representing some of the finest wind playing in the country. It is comprised of up to 80 wind, brass and percussion students who are generally in 10th – 12th grades. Programming consists of modern and traditional repertoire, as well as new commissions. The Wind Symphony rehearses each Saturday, as well as each Tuesday evening.

String Orchestra

Under the direction of Ben Bolter, the Conservatory String Orchestra is an intermediate level ensemble. It is comprised of up to 80 violin, viola, cello, and bass students who are generally in 5th – 9th grades. Programming consists of modern and traditional string orchestra repertoire.

Merit Philharmonic

Under the direction of Ben Bolter, the Merit Philharmonic is Merit’s top orchestral experience for talented young musicians. It is comprised of up to 50 string, wind, brass, and percussion students who are generally in 9th – 12th grades. Programming consists of modern and traditional orchestral repertoire.

Woodwind, Brass, and Percussion students interested in auditioning for the Merit Philharmonic must first be accepted into the Wind Symphony. Students who are accepted into the Conservatory at the Wind Symphony level may then audition in the fall for seating placement in Merit Philharmonic. 

Piano

Pianists in the Junior or Senior Piano Division participate in a comprehensive, daylong program consisting of theory, musicianship/instrumental group classes, piano duos, weekly recital hour, and electives. Top pianists may also be required to participate in chamber ensembles. Piano students are generally in 5th – 12th grades.

Guitar

Guitarists in the Junior or Senior Guitar Division participate in a comprehensive, daylong program consisting of theory, musicianship/instrumental group classes, weekly recital hour, guitar ensemble, and electives. Guitar students are generally in 8th – 12th grades.

Voice

Voice students in the Conservatory are being accepted into a comprehensive, daylong program consisting of a large ensemble, theory, musicianship/vocal technique classes, weekly recital hour, and electives. Voice students are generally in 6th – 12th grades and participate in either Concert or Conservatory Choir.

Concert Choir

Under the direction of Aaron Albin, this choir is for the novice singer. It is open to students of all ages in the Conservatory. Students will learn basic vocal technique, solfege, and sing songs in two-part harmony.

Conservatory Choir

Under the direction of Aaron Albin, this choir is an auditioned ensemble open to students in the Conservatory who are 8th grade and older. Students will sing a variety of challenging accompanied and a cappella literature.

Solo Voice Program

The Solo Voice Program is designed for advanced solo study and is offered in partnership with Lyric Opera of Chicago. The students are trained in all aspects of singing: vocal technique, art song and musical theater or standard jazz repertoire, theory, acting and movement, and history. Students in this program may focus in one of two areas: Opera and Musical Theater or Vocal Jazz.

Opera and Musical Theater

Opera and Musical Theater is part of the Solo Voice Program. The students are trained in all aspects of singing: vocal technique, art song repertoire, theory, movement, and acting. Students also participate in the Opera and Music Theater Ensemble that focuses on Opera, Operetta and Golden Age Musical Theater repertoire.

Vocal Jazz

Vocal Jazz Ensemble is part of the Solo Voice Program. The students perform a cappella and accompanied repertoire in the jazz and contemporary vein. All music is memorized and improvisation is encouraged. The students participate in the Vocal Jazz Ensemble and also perform with the Merit Jazz Ensemble for special engagements throughout the year.

Jazz

Students in Merit’s Jazz Division participate in a comprehensive, daylong program consisting of theory, large ensemble (Concert Jazz Ensemble or Merit Jazz Ensemble), combos, musicianship/instrumental group classes, weekly recital hour, and electives. Jazz students are generally in 8th – 12th grades and have had several years of playing experience. Students in Merit’s Jazz Division have the opportunity to perform in many venues across the city of Chicago including the Chicago’s renowned Jazz Showcase.

Junior Jazz Ensemble

The Junior Jazz Ensemble is an elective that serves as an introductory course for any interested Conservatory students that are new to Jazz Studies or have limited experience in jazz ensemble playing.  Students will learn about style, improvisation, song forms and other essential Jazz Studies basics through performance and listening.  There is no audition required.

Concert Jazz Ensemble

The Concert Jazz Ensemble is an intermediate level ensemble for Conservatory students that have a basic understanding of and experience with jazz performance styles and improvisation.  It is comprised of saxophone, trumpet, trombone and rhythm section (piano, guitar, bass, drum-set and vibraphone). This ensemble is recommended for students who are generally in 8th to 10th grades and have one to two years of jazz ensemble experience.

Conservatory students not majoring in Jazz Studies must complete a seating audition for this ensemble in the fall.

Merit Jazz Ensemble

As the most advanced big band in the Jazz Studies department, the Merit Jazz Ensemble features the Conservatory’s most experienced Jazz Studies majors as well as upper level Band students with considerable experience in jazz performance and improvisation. It is comprised of saxophone, trumpet, trombone and rhythm section (piano, guitar, bass, drum-set and vibraphone). This ensemble is recommended for students who are generally in 10th to 12th grades and have two to four years of jazz ensemble experience.

Conservatory students not majoring in Jazz Studies must complete a seating audition for this ensemble in the fall.