Youth Music Illinois Handbook
2018-19 Season


Congratulations, and welcome to membership in Youth Music Illinois. Your successful audition has qualified you to be part of a youth orchestra program founded in 1965, with over 2,500 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 2018-19 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                                         Laura Jean (L.J.) Alexandre-Strong
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 2018-19 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:

Your ensemble conductor will be the musical authority and source of answers to questions on music. Any questions regarding your orchestra or ensemble should be directed to the conductor/director first. 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 ability
  2. Not yet have graduated from 12th grade.
  3. Commit to Youth Music Illinois’ rehearsal and concert schedule.
  4. Commit to some volunteer service for the YMI organization, as opportunities arise (explained further below).
  5. Participate in your school’s instrumental 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 instrumental music 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 Central Illinois Youth Symphony, Concert Orchestra, Preparatory Orchestra and various ensembles are open to student musicians through grade 12, and is decided through an audition process. Entrance auditions are held every Spring for admittance into Youth Music Illinois for the following season and throughout the year to fill open positions. All audition materials may be obtained from the Youth Music Illinois website.

Entry Auditions (Primarily Spring auditions for the following season)

  • All students are required to audition for initial entrance into any YMI ensemble
  • All current YMI students who wish to move up to a more advanced ensemble are required to audition in the Spring for the following season


  • YMI students who wish to remain in their current ensemble during the following season may be eligible for renewal without auditioning, provided they are in “good standing“, as described below.
  • (Note: seating hearings are required of all CICO and YS students prior to the start of the season. These hearings are heard by the orchestra’s conductor.)

YMI students are eligible for renewal of membership in their current orchestra for the following season without an entry audition, if nominated by their conductor and approved by Music Director and Executive Director. The conductor’s nomination will be based on the student’s standing as of April 1. Students exempted from entry auditions for the following season will be notified by April 15*.

Criteria for good standing are:

  • Attendance according to policy (max 3 or conductor override per semester)
    • No last-minute notices of planned absences
    • No unexcused absences
    • Timely arrivals
  • Clear evidence of effective practice and preparation, as measured by
    • Progress on and successful performance of assigned parts, in
      • Rehearsal
      • Concert
  • Good attitude in rehearsal
    • Attentive
    • Engaged
    • Respectful of rehearsal space
  • Positive & respectful relationships with others at YMI:
    • Fellow students
    • YMI Staff
    • Conductors

*Please note that a student losing “good standing” status between April 15th and the final concert of the season for any reason may be required to re-audition.

*Entry auditions are required for students in good standing who wish to move up in ensemble for the following season (e.g., from CICO to YS). All CICO and YS students participate in seating hearings in August.


Conductors 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. Seatings are based on students’ playing levels and specific demands for the instrument in the current repertoire being played.


The 2018-19 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: Sunday between 3 and 6 pm
  • Concert Orchestra: Thursdays between 6:30 and 9 pm
  • Prep Orchestra: Thursdays – 6:30-8 pm
  • 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.
  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 willful damage to property in any way will be held financially responsible for all damage.
  8. If the student or parents have an issue or concern regarding their experience in orchestra or ensemble they should reach out to the conductor first. If the issue remains unresolved after discussion, it may be pursued further with the Music Director and/or Executive Director. If this level of discussion does not resolve the concern, the matter will be passed to the Board of Directors of YMI. The Board of Directors’ decision is final.
  9. 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.
  10. Have an open, positive attitude toward participating in your orchestra or ensemble. Attitude is infectious. Make yours worth catching!
  11. 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.
  12. 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. Depending on their seriousness, infractions 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 Youth Music Illinois


Your attendance at rehearsals is absolutely necessary. Without regular attendance, your orchestra or ensemble will not reach its full potential. Consequently, YMI attendance policy sets a maximum limit on absences during each rehearsal-concert cycle:

For all orchestras and ensembles, a maximum of 3 total absences allowed, of any kind, per concert preparation period. (Fall or Spring)

Exceptions to this limit may be made due to extenuating circumstances, including:

  • significant, persistent health issues
  • extraordinary number of school music program scheduling conflicts
  • extraordinary family circumstances or challenges

Exceptions are at the discretion of the conductor, in consultation with MD and/or ED.

Students missing more than three rehearsals in a single semester may be excused from a concert performance, or they may be asked to play a concert readiness audition.

Absences are not allowed for Youth Music Illinois dress rehearsals or sound checks, except in case of direct conflicts with school music performances or mandatory events. Dress rehearsals are the final regular rehearsal prior to a concert, and sound checks may occur up to three hours prior to the start of a concert.

Please contact the Program Manager to discuss whether or not your activity qualifies for being excused from dress rehearsal or sound check. *An absence from a concert not previously authorized and not due to an emergency may result in dismissal from Youth Music Illinois.

Planned absences of any kind – whether for school music activities or family conflicts – must be submitted to Youth Music Illinois at the earliest opportunity. Emergency absences should be reported/explained by e-mail to the Program Manager as soon as circumstances allow.

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.

You may track your attendance by e-mailing the Program Manager. 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.

Musicians who do not play in certain pieces (often brass or percussion players, but not exclusively these) may be excused early from rehearsal. All players should assume that they are on call for the entire duration of the rehearsal unless otherwise informed. Rehearsals for Youth Symphony will be either Triple Format (2 hours total, staggered start times) or Tutti (2.5 hours). Rehearsals for Concert Orchestra may be 2.5 hours when Triple Format or 2 hours when Tutti. Rehearsals are 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, 2018, second-semester tuition is due by December 1, 2018. 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 Youth Music Illinois 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.
  • Assisting at rehearsals or social events.

There are many ways that you can help support the Youth Music Illinois mission. All families are requested and encouraged to provide support to Youth Music Illinois 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.


Youth Symphony student musicians are eligible to compete in the Youth Music Illinois Concerto Competition for the opportunity to perform with the Youth Symphony in public performance during the spring orchestral concert. More information and the 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/Big Jazz – 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 Youth Music Illinois 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 make the best decisions to advance the organization and raise thousands of dollars to carry on the work of the Youth Music Illinois organization.

If any problems arise that pertain to any Youth Music Illinois member groups, please contact our Executive Director.

Board of Directors 2018-2019

Viki Burnett
Sarah Curtis
Elena Gabor, Vice President
Marisa Ferrell
Jim W. Johnson, President
Tracy Kramer, Secretary
Jeff Pulfer
Gary Rafool
Lance Rogers
Cindy Silver
Jennifer Suau
Sheila Zadoks, Treasurer


Executive Director – Laura Jean (L.J.) Alexandre-Strong
Program Manager – Brea Fearon
Music Director / Youth Symphony Conductor – David Commanday
Big Jazz – TBA
CICO Conductor – David Getz
PREP Conductor – Rosemary Ardner
Percussion Ensemble – Peggy Bonner
Woodwind Ensemble – David Cyzak
Brass Ensemble – Micheal Archer