Conservatory Auditions

Conservatory auditionS ARE NOW CLOSED

Although auditions for Merit’s 2022/23 Conservatory have now ended, we have a few hard-to-come-by openings for certain instruments. Learn more.

Merit School of Music’s Alice S. Pfaelzer Conservatory gives talented young musicians the opportunity to work with Chicago’s finest music educators through participation in a variety of pre-collegiate classes including technique, music theory, chamber music, large ensembles, and more—all TUITION-FREE.

Find out everything you need to know about auditioning for Merit’s Conservatory below.


🎵 December 15

Audition requirements available

🎵 March 15

Audition registration opens 

🎵 April 30, May 7, May 14

Conservatory audition dates

*New families only* Theory placement exam, family interview day


Returning Students

Spots in Merit’s Conservatory are in high demand. Current Conservatory students are required to re-audition every year in order to ensure equal access to this sought-after program.

Audition requirements are slightly different for returning students than they are for new students, so be sure to carefully review your music requirements!

New Students

Students new to the Conservatory are required to complete the following:

Music audition

Returning & new students

The music audition will assess your current skills, musicianship, sight-reading ability, etc. Some program divisions have different requirements based on ability levels or ensembles. Students should prepare the requirements best suited to their level.


Theory placement test

New students

A theory placement exam will be administered on the day of your audition. Theory curriculum is a required part of participating in the Conservatory. This exam is used to assess your level of theory knowledge and place you in the appropriate level theory class — it does not impact your acceptance into the Conservatory.

Family Interview

New students

The family interview is an opportunity for you to talk one-on-one with a Merit team member, ask questions, and discuss the commitments and expectations of joining the Conservatory. All interviews will take place on the audition day and will be scheduled after you’ve registered to audition. A parent or guardian is required to attend with you.


Yes, all current Conservatory students need to re-audition in order to keep their spot in the Conservatory and should follow the “returning students’ audition requirements.

Students who are new to the Conservatory but not new to Merit programming (i.e. group class, private lesson, and Merit Music in Communities students) should follow the “new student” audition requirements.

Students who have previously been in the Conservatory, but were not in the Conservatory this past academic year, need to audition as a new student.

Students auditioning for one ensemble are automatically considered for other ensembles within their division when they audition. For example, a student auditions for Symphonic Band. If they do not make it into Symphonic Band, they are automatically considered for Concert Band.

In some cases, a student may audition for an ensemble below their ability. In this case, they may be asked to audition again for placement in a higher ensemble.

We encourage students to audition on material that best represents their abilities. Please talk with your lesson teacher or ensemble director if you are not sure what material is most appropriate for you.

Students are allowed to participate in multiple program divisions (i.e. Band, Orchestra, Piano, Guitar, Voice, or Jazz) should they successfully audition into each division. That being said, the Conservatory schedule may not allow a student to participate fully in both divisions. In that case, you may have to select between the two divisions.

After auditioning into their primary ensemble, students have the opportunity to join additional ensembles once they have been accepted. Available ensembles include instrument ensembles and chamber groups. These ensembles are determined early fall prior to the start of the year.

Wind Symphony students have the option to audition to participate in Merit Philharmonic. Interested students must audition for both Merit Philharmonic and Wind Symphony at the May auditions. Only students accepted into Wind Symphony will be considered for Merit Philharmonic, and participation in both ensembles is expected.

YES! In fact, we highly encourage that you participate in your school’s music program while attending Merit.

Merit’s Conservatory program is NOT a replacement for your school’s music activity, but rather a supplement to enhance your musical experience.

Thanks to the generosity of Merit’s supporters, the Conservatory is a tuition-free program. This means that the cost of tuition ($2,500) is waived for all Conservatory students!

Upon accepting your invitation to join Merit’s Conservatory, there is a registration fee of $200, which can be set up under a payment plan if needed.

Interested in joining Merit's Conservatory?

We have a few hard to come by openings for the 2022/23 Conservatory year.