Audition for the WYSO Orchestras

Have you dreamed of playing in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras? WYSO provides young musicians with the tools they need to grow and thrive. You will learn from the area’s top music educators and collaborate with other young musicians as passionate about music as you are.

Our orchestra ensembles are open to students ages 8-18 and scholarships are available for tuition and private lessons for any student who requires financial assistance.

Ensemble playing challenges students to learn in ways not possible in individual learning. Orchestra skills translate to many life situations as students learn leadership, self-confidence, teamwork, persistence, and resilience.  WYSO alumni are found in every possible job field and in professional orchestras around the world.

Participating in any WYSO orchestra begins with an audition. Read on to discover how the process works.


How the audition process works

When auditioning for WYSO, you will audition for a specific orchestra and we generally recommend at least two years of school or private instruction for our entry-level orchestra (Opus One). If your playing is at a higher level than the orchestra you auditioned for, you will be considered for a higher-level orchestra. If your playing is lower than the orchestra you auditioned for, but our judges think you are a good fit for a different orchestra, they will make this recommendation. It is all about your fit, comfort, and growth as a musician so that the experience is exhilarating and fun and stretches you a little without being stressful.

During your audition, you will be asked to prepare and perform the following four types of materials in the order listed.



Each audition begins with scales that are chosen specifically for each orchestra. Scales are an important component of your development as a musician and preparing them teaches intonation, dexterity, ear-training, and music theory. Scale practice helps with sight-reading, too!  This is the place to start assessing where you fit in our orchestra placement. Scales that are too difficult suggest that you apply for a different orchestra. Be sure to prepare all of the scales required for your instrument and desired orchestra to be ready for your audition.


After performing the scales, the audition will proceed to a short solo which you choose. Memorization is not required. This portion of the audition will last around two minutes, so be sure to play the part of the solo which puts your best foot forward.

Solos may come from Suzuki books, etudes, concertos, solo repertoire, or any other source. Be sure to consult with your private music teacher or school music teacher for help selecting an appropriate solo. Practice, practice, practice!

Tips for practicing for your audition:

  • For practice, play your solo for others and get feedback. Video record yourself and listen with a critical ear. Look at your posture, body language, and technique.
  • Before you begin, state the title, composer, and movement you will be performing.
  • Play confidently and have fun! Everyone, including the judges, want you to play well. Remember you’ll be asked to submit a copy of your solo music.


In the third phase of the audition, you will play your required music excerpts.

The excerpts for each year’s audition are posted on a specific time and day so that no student is perceived to have an advantage. Each student can begin learning the excerpts on the same day and the excerpts are different each year. Excerpts are provided by our conductors to match the level of musicianship that is expected for each orchestra.

2022-23 WYSO audition excerpts

Click the button below to access the required excerpts for all instruments and orchestras. You will need to have registered for your Audition appointment in order to receive the necessary password.

If you have registered for your appointment but have not received the password, please contact


The fourth and final part of the audition is sight-reading.

Sight-reading is required for ALL strings auditioning for all orchestras.

What is sight-reading? At your audition you will be presented with music you have never seen before and will be asked to play it for the judges.

How should you prepare? There is no secret to learning how to sight-read well. Frequent practice of sight-reading music is the best solution. In addition, practicing scales is very useful, as you will be able to quickly identify the key of the sight-reading and use muscle memory from playing scales in that key.

  • During your audition, take 15-20 seconds to look at the sight-reading excerpt before you begin to play.
  • Determine the key of the piece and quickly scan for any accidentals.
  • Think about the meter and choose a slower tempo for improved accuracy rather than one that is too fast.
  • If you make a mistake, keep going!

“Audition” or “Reserve a Seat” ?


If you are new to WYSO, the only way to join a WYSO orchestra is to Audition. You do not have the choice of Reserving a Seat.

  • This means you will need to BOOK AN AUDITION APPOINTMENT and pay the $35 Audition fee.
  • Prepare to present your scales, solo, excerpts, and sight-reading (if you are a strings player) in front of next year’s conductors.
  • Successfully present your materials at your Audition Appointment.
  • Register for your orchestra during the Orchestra Registration process.



If you are a current WYSO Member, you can audition for the next orchestra OR stay in your current orchestra.
To audition for the next orchestra you need to BOOK YOUR AUDITION APPOINTMENT by May 23, 2022 and pay the $35 fee.

  • Prepare to present your scales, solo, excerpts, and sight-reading (if you are a strings player)
  • Successfully present your materials in front of next year’s conductors at your Audition Appointment.
  • If you do not successfully audition into the next orchestra, you are automatically offered your seat in your current orchestra.
  • When you register during the orchestra registration process, the audition fee is not deducted from the tuition amount.

If you do not wish to audition AND you want to stay in your current orchestra, SUBMIT A SEAT RESERVATION FORM.
This tells WYSO that your current orchestra seat is reserved.

  • To reserve your seat, you must fill out the Seat Reservation Form by June 10, 2022.
  • You also need to submit a $50 fee, which will be deducted from your tuition during the orchestra registration process.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the fee to audition?

There is a $35 fee for each audition, with a 3% transaction fee added for credit cards.

Note: If you audition and are not placed in the next orchestra, you will receive an offer to remain in your current orchestra. Therefore, if you decide to audition, it is not necessary to also submit a seat reservation.

Where will the auditions be taking place?

The auditions will be taking place at Madison Country Day School.

I am a current WYSO member who wishes to remain in my current orchestra. Can I do this?

YES! For all current members, you may choose to remain in your current orchestra or you may audition. If you are happy with the level of music and activities of your current orchestra and want to stay there, you will need to submit a seat reservation form by May 23, 2022. There is a $50 fee to reserve your current seat, with a 3% transaction fee added for credit cards. This $50 fee will be applied to your next season’s tuition.


How do I decide which orchestra to audition for? Is there an age requirement?

WYSO encourages students (and parents) to apply for an audition at the level most appropriate for where the student will fit the best. Students have the most fun when they are playing at the right level where the music is challenging but not too hard.

If your playing is at a higher level than the orchestra you audition for, you will be considered for a higher-level orchestra. If your playing is lower than the orchestra you audition for, but our judges think you are a good fit for a different orchestra, they will make this recommendation.

Below are the minimum age levels required for each orchestra and the general level of playing:

  • Opus One (String Orchestra): Students need to be at least 8 years old and we recommend at least two years of instrument playing experience.
  • Sinfonietta (String Orchestra): Students need to be at least 10 years old and have at least three years of private study or school string experience.
  • Concert Orchestra: This is a full orchestra with strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion and harps. Students should be at least 11 years old and have 2-3 years of ensemble experience.
  • Philharmonia Orchestra: This is a full orchestra with strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion and harps.  Students should be at least 12 years old and have at least three years of ensemble experience. Members generally perform individually at an advanced high school level.
  • Youth Orchestra: This is WYSO’s premier full orchestra, performing advanced orchestral literature. Members should be at least 13 years old, have several years of ensemble experience, and perform individually at a pre-college or college level.



Is it possible to skip orchestras?

While WYSO is usually thought of as a sequential orchestra program, it is possible to skip or bypass an orchestra. Audition for the orchestra for which you feel most suited. Conductors will place you where they feel you would both benefit and contribute the most. There is no need to schedule auditions for each orchestra or perform a preliminary audition.

Please remember that bypassing an orchestra is rare and remaining in the same orchestra for more than one year is a very common occurrence.

Note: Current Sinfonietta members are not eligible for Youth Orchestra and current Opus One members are not eligible for Philharmonia and Youth Orchestras.

Can I audition on two different instruments?

Yes. After submitting and paying for the first application, you may go back to the audition page and complete another form. You may complete as many secondary instrument applications as you wish. There is a $35 fee for each audition, with a 3% transaction fee added for credit cards. Do not apply to multiple orchestras with the same instrument.

What should I play for my audition?

You will be asked to play, in this order:

  • Scales from the required list,
  • A solo of your choosing (2 min.),
  • The excerpts for your instrument and orchestra level (excerpts will be posted on April 10),
  • Sight-reading is also required for ALL strings auditioning for all orchestras.

When will excerpts be made available?

Audition excerpts for the 2022-2023 season are currently posted here.

In order to view the excerpts, you need to have registered for an audition.  If you did not receive the password and you have already registered for an audition, please contact

Where do I get the Sight-reading music?

Sight-reading music will be presented to you at your audition and is required for ALL strings auditioning for all orchestras. Audition preparation information may be found here.

What should I wear?

Wear comfortable clothes that allow you to move and perform. Dressing up is nice and standard practice for auditioning, but don’t feel obligated to purchase new clothing.

On what criteria will the audition be judged?

Each student will be judged on:

  • Tone quality,
  • Rhythm (steady tempo),
  • Intonation (playing in tune with yourself),
  • Instrument specific technique and fundamentals,
  • Interpretation, musicality, expression, and phrasing,
  • Overall performance. If you should stumble, how quickly do you recover?
  • Careful preparation of all of the audition music.


A student will not be judged on:

  • What you are wearing,
  • How expensive your instrument is,
  • If you have a private teacher and who that teacher might be,
  • Your experience in other auditions or ensembles,
  • Race or ethnicity,
  • Gender or gender presentation.


How and when will orchestra placements be made?

Most auditions will be heard directly by WYSO artistic staff, and each is familiar with the different orchestra levels and their required skills and demands. As such, it is the WYSO artistic staff who make the orchestra placements.

Decisions regarding orchestra placement will be emailed by June 24, 2022. Please do not contact WYSO inquiring about orchestra placement before then. If you do not hear from WYSO by July 6, email

Will WYSO hold late auditions in August?

WYSO will be holding late auditions in August! Watch for new information!

Sometimes, after the first round of auditions is held, an orchestra conductor may realize that the orchestra is short of specific instruments. In that case, a period of late auditions may be held (in August) to specifically fill those seats in those specific orchestras. Rarely is an orchestra looking for all instruments. If you are really interested in playing in a WYSO orchestra, your best bet is to book an audition or reserve your seat by the listed deadlines.