Youth Music Illinois
Central Illinois Youth Symphony Handbook
2017-18 Season

Congratulations, and welcome to membership in Youth Music Illinois / Central Illinois Youth Symphony. Your successful audition has qualified you to be part of a youth orchestra program spanning more than fifty-one years, with over 3,500 members so far. Youth Music Illinois is dedicated to providing a musical performance experience that will both challenge and inspire you.   You will have a lot of fun at Youth Music Illinois – serious fun, as you and your friends work together to rise to the challenges of the music we perform.  This experience is meant to extend and support your school music program, and not replace it; our expectation is that you will continue to make music at school while in Youth Music Illinois.

Membership in your ensemble is a privilege that comes with responsibility, and we expect you to take it seriously. This handbook will explain our schedules, procedures, and policies, and act as a guide for you and your family throughout the 2017-18 concert season. Please read it thoroughly, and make note of all expectations of student musicians and their families.

Welcome to Youth Music Illinois!

David Commanday                                         Jeff McSweeney
Music Director                                                Executive Director


Youth Music Illinois office and rehearsals are located in the Life Together Center at 3601 N. Sheridan Road in Peoria. All rehearsals for the 2017-18 season will take place at this location unless otherwise specified.

You may need to contact Youth Music Illinois throughout the season for a variety of reasons. Your primary contacts for the organization will be the following:

·     Jeff McSweeney, Executive Director:
·     David Commanday, Music Director:
·     Rachel Rockhold, Program Manager:
·     Your orchestra/ensemble conductor

Your ensemble conductor will be the musical authority and source of answers to questions on music. All non-musical questions or concerns should be directed to the Program Manager or Executive Director.


Youth Music Illinois communicates with student musicians and parents almost exclusively through email. It is your family’s responsibility to make sure that we have a working email address for you on file, and to make sure our messages can reach you. (Please make sure your browser does not spam-filter our mailings, and read all newsletters for important messages). The fastest, most reliable way to reach Youth Music Illinois staff is through email.


To become and remain a member of Youth Music Illinois you must:

1.    Perform an audition to demonstrate proficiency and establish your level (ensemble).
2.    Not yet have graduated from 12th grade.
3.    Commit to the Youth Music Illinois rehearsal and concert schedule for your orchestra or ensemble.
4.    Commit to certain service requirements for the Youth Music Illinois organization.
5.    Participate in your school music program.*

* Youth Music Illinois is proud to support and collaborate with area school and private music teachers. Members of Youth Music Illinois are expected to participate in their school orchestra/band/choir program, when such a program exists. Waiver of the Youth Music Illinois school music participation requirement may be requested under certain extenuating circumstances, such as scheduling conflicts between core academic courses and music periods. Such waivers are only granted after confirmation of the conflict in consultation with school officials, including the school music director. If you have concerns about your child’s participation in his/her school music program and how that may affect their participation in Youth Music Illinois, please contact the Executive Director to discuss your unique circumstance.


Membership in the organization is decided through an audition process and is open to all music students in Central Illinois. Students through grade 12 are eligible for membership in the Youth Symphony, Concert Orchestra, Preparatory Orchestra, and various ensembles. Entrance auditions are held every Spring for admittance into Youth Music Illinois for the following season.  Entrance auditions will also be held the following August prior to season start, to fill any openings still available. Finally, Youth Music Illinois will hold auditions again in the late Fall or over winter break, prior to the first rehearsal of the Spring semester. All audition materials may be obtained from the Youth Music Illinois website.


Seating of students within strings sections is related to the differing technical and musical playing levels of the students, distributing them in such a way that every student can contribute best to the section’s performance. Principal seats of string sections are assigned to players who not only play at a high level, but also read well and will lead with confidence.

Assignment of parts within wind, brass, and percussion sections will generally reflect playing ability, including technique, range, volume, and musicianship.  Solo and leading opportunities will be shared among members of sections when possible, at the discretion of the conductor.

Conductors of Youth Symphony and Concert Orchestra will hold seating hearings in August prior to season’s start, to become better familiar with all students’ playing levels, and to seat students appropriately within sections. All seatings are at the discretion of the conductor.


The 2017-18 Youth Music Illinois Calendars are available on the website at You can download each orchestra’s or ensemble’s calendar via our Google calendars on the website. Regular rehearsals for orchestras will occur at the Life Together Center at the following times:
Youth Symphony: Thursday or Sunday – times to be determined
Concert Orchestra: Thursdays – 7-9 p.m.
Prep Orchestra: Thursdays – 6:45-8 p.m.
Ensemble days and times to be determined

Youth Music Illinois will provide you with reminders of upcoming events every Wednesday through the weekly email. However, it is ultimately your responsibility to know the time and location of your rehearsal.


Students, this is a unique opportunity for you to work with other young musicians who are just as enthusiastic and passionate about music as you are! As such, we expect our musicians to take their membership within the organization seriously so that we can reach the highest levels of musical excellence possible.

All members should:

1.    Attend all rehearsals and concerts (see Attendance Policy below).
2.    Bring your music, a pencil, and your instrument and all equipment you may need to perform your music (i.e. mutes, mallets, etc.). **NOTE: It is not acceptable for you to lose your music. You are responsible for ensuring that your music is turned in at the end of the concert cycle in acceptable condition. Any part lost or damaged beyond use will result in a $5 charge per part. If you need music for a rehearsal, you will not be allowed to take the new part home with you until you pay the $5 fee per piece.
3.    Come to every rehearsal prepared to the best of your ability. Daily practice is essential to successful rehearsals.
4.    Listen to recordings of your music regularly. Most pieces may be found on YouTube.
5.    Take private lessons from a qualified instructor. You are encouraged to bring your orchestra or ensemble music to your teacher for help if needed.
6.    Interact with other members, Youth Music Illinois staff, and conductors in a polite and courteous manner. When you are at a Youth Music Illinois activity, you represent the organization. Please behave in a way that shows your commitment to our mission.
7.    Treat the Youth Music Illinois facility and concert halls with care and respect. Students causing damage to property in any way will be held financially responsible for all damage.
8.    We encourage all Youth Music Illinois members to use their musical talents to share their love of classical music with their communities and further the mission of Youth Music Illinois .
9.    Have an open, positive attitude toward participating in your orchestra or ensemble. Attitude is infectious. Make yours worth catching!

Hats, food, gum, or drink (with the exception of water in a spill-proof container specifically for soaking reeds) is never permitted during rehearsals or performances. The use of cell phones or other electronic devices during rehearsals and performances is not allowed.

Students in the Youth Music Illinois organization are expected to have good discipline during rehearsals and performances. Disturbances, inattention, and talking show a lack of interest on your part and indicate that you do not take your role within the orchestra or ensemble seriously. This may result in a seating change. Disrespectful and/or inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated and may result in immediate expulsion if deemed necessary by the Executive Director. Any infraction of conduct, attitude, or responsibility will be dealt with in one or more of the following manners:

Conference with student
Conference with parents
Change in seating
Expulsion from the CIYS


Your attendance at rehearsals is absolutely necessary. Without regular attendance, your orchestra or ensemble will not reach its full potential. Each orchestra and ensemble will adhere to the following attendance allowances to be used at the student’s discretion:

Youth Symphony: One (1) absence per concert cycle
Concert Orchestra, Prep Orchestra: Two (2) absences per concert cycle
Small Ensembles: Two (2) absences per concert cycle

All students should be actively involved in their school music programs. As such, it is likely that you will encounter an occasional Thursday-night conflict with our rehearsals and your school music program. In order to support your participation in your school music program, we will allow up to two (2) absences per concert cycle in addition to the allowable absences listed above. To qualify for these extra absences, the activity must meet the following guidelines:

Absences may not be used for Youth Music Illinois dress rehearsals or sound checks.
Extra absences will only be allowed for school music activities. These include (but are not limited to): concerts, dress rehearsals, competitions, musicals, madrigal dinners, etc. Please contact our Program Manager to discuss whether or not your activity qualifies for the additional absence policy.

Anticipated absences for school music activities must be submitted to the Youth Music Illinois no later than the third rehearsal of the concert cycle in order to be used as an additional absence. Failure to do so will mean that the student will be required to use their allowable absences as outlined at the beginning of this section. You can report school music absences by clicking here.

*Attendance at all dress rehearsals and sound checks prior to the concert is mandatory. Dress rehearsals occur the last Thursday prior to a concert, and sound checks occur up to three hours prior to the start of a concert.

*An absence from a concert may result in dismissal from Youth Music Illinois .

Plan to arrive at rehearsals at least 15 minutes early in order to warm-up properly. Rehearsals begin promptly at the time listed on the schedule. Any student that is not prepared to tune at the exact starting time of rehearsal will be marked as absent. Quite a bit of material is covered each week, and every minute counts.

Please fill out an Absence Form on the Youth Music Illinois website as soon as you know of any scheduled, unavoidable absences during the concert cycle (i.e. for your school’s music concert) so that we can plan rehearsals accordingly. In the event that a last-minute absence is unavoidable due illness, the following procedure must be followed as soon as possible:

·     Submit the absence through the Youth Music Illinois website by clicking on the Absence page.
·     If you are unable to access the internet, you may call to report the absence no later than 2:00 p.m. on the day of rehearsal. You must include the student’s name, date of absence, and reason for the absence.

You may track your attendance as recorded by the Program Manager by contacting Rachel at You may dispute any attendance record for one week following the date in question and must be submitted via email to the Executive Director. Any absence on record past one week is no longer disputable.

Brass or percussion players who are not required in every piece may be excused early. This will not invariably be the case; however, these players must understand that they are on call for the entire duration of the rehearsal unless dismissed early. Rehearsals will normally be two hours in length for Youth Symphony and Concert Orchestra and 1.25 hours for Preparatory String Orchestra. See your season calendar for times for all groups.


Audition and tuition fees are nonrefundable and nontransferable, regardless of circumstance. Tuition is required with the return of the acceptance papers for the organization, unless other arrangements have been made with the Executive Director. If the tuition deposit is not received with the acceptance papers, the student will not be enrolled in the organization. First semester tuition is due by July 1, 2017, second semester tuition is due by December 1, 2017. Any tuition not received by this date will result in a 5% interest charge, compounded on the 15th of each following month. If the balance is not paid in full by the first concert, the student will not be seated.

We strive to make our programs accessible to all enthusiastic young musicians regardless of financial barriers. If you have difficulty meeting this payment schedule, you may apply for a need based tuition scholarship or contact the Executive Director to make other arrangements. Tuition scholarship applications can be downloaded from the Youth Music Illinois website. If applying for a tuition scholarship, the application and any supporting materials must be included when you return your acceptance paperwork.


Tuition only covers approximately 40% of the total CIYS budget every year. In order to keep our tuition costs as low as possible, we expect our members to help support the Youth Music Illinois through either volunteering their time or providing financial donations. We have a variety of activities that you can choose from in order to meet this service requirement and may include:

·     Supporting our fundraisers.
·     Securing donations from individuals and businesses.
·     Collecting tickets, passing out programs, or assistance with stage changes at concerts.
·     Assembling mailings, taping music, and stuffing programs.
·     Supervising rehearsals or social events.

There are many ways that you can help support the Youth Music Illinois mission. All families are expected to provide support to the CIYS beyond the tuition charged. Each member and their family comes with a unique set of resources that can help us continue to provide excellent musical opportunities. If you have an idea for how you can help the Youth Music Illinois that is not listed above, please contact the Executive Director.


All seniors in Youth Music Illinois are eligible to compete in the Youth Music Illinois Senior Solo Recital and Competition for the opportunity to perform with the Youth Symphony in public performance during the spring orchestral concert. Interested players should submit an application to perform in the fall. This application will be available on the Youth Music Illinois website.


*Any student who arrives at the concert not properly dressed according to the dress code described below will be dismissed from the concert.

Youth Symphony – Concert dress is a black suit or tuxedo for the men, with a white shirt, black bow tie, and black shoes and socks. For the women, a floor-length solid black skirt or full solid black dress pants and a long-sleeved black blouse, or long black dress with long sleeves, black shoes, and no white stockings. Leggings are not acceptable.

Concert Orchestra – Concert dress is black dress pants for the men, with a long sleeve white shirt, long dark tie, and black shoes and socks. For the women, a floor-length solid black skirt or full black dress pants, a long-sleeved white blouse, black shoes, and no white stockings. Leggings are not acceptable.

Preparatory String Orchestra – Concert dress is black pants and white shirt for the men. For the women, floor-length black skirts or full black dress pants and white blouse. Leggings are not acceptable.

Ensembles – Concert dress is a black suit or tuxedo for the men, with a white shirt, black tie, black shoes and black socks. For the women, a floor-length solid black skirt or full solid black dress pants and a long-sleeved black blouse, or a floor-length solid black dress with long sleeves and black shoes. No white stockings.

Percussion Ensemble – All black for men and women.


The Central Illinois Youth Symphony Organization and its policies are governed by a Board of Directors consisting of interested musicians, educators, parents, and civic leaders. These dedicated individuals have worked countless hours to ensure its success. Each year they work to raise thousands of dollars to carry on the work of the Youth Music Illinois organization.

If any problems arise that pertain to any of the Central Illinois Youth Symphony Organization member groups, please contact our Executive Director.

Board of Directors 2017-2018
Russell Boulton
Ann Campen
Brenda Conroy
Sarah Curtis, Secretary
Alison Ferolo
Elena Gabor
Taunya Jenkins
Jim W. Johnson, President
​Tracy Kramer
Lance Rogers
Cindy Silver, Vice-President
Jennifer Suau
Sheila Zadoks, Treasurer

Executive Director – Jeff McSweeney
Program Manager – Rachel Rockhold
Music Director / Youth Symphony Conductor – David Commanday
CICO Conductor – David Getz
PREP Conductor – Rosemary Ardner
Percussion Ensemble – Peggy Bonner