This program—one of the oldest traditions in CPS, going into its 56th year—attracts students from across all regions at the elementary and high school levels.

Students at beginning to advanced levels in their art forms are eligible to join districtwide music, theater and dance ensembles. Students rehearse each Saturday during the fall semester at Jones College Prep High School (Loop), receiving exceptional instruction from highly-qualified CPS arts educators and local teaching artists. They go on to perform at a Winter Showcase in December.

Students from Winter Ensembles may be eligible for nomination to the All-­City Performing Arts Ensembles, who rehearse on Saturdays throughout the spring semester at Jones College Prep High School. They go on to perform at a Spring Showcase at the Harris Theater for Music & Dance. Students who participate are eligible for scholarships to Columbia College.

All-City students are offered free breakfast and lunch during all rehearsals.

2019–20 All-City Performing Arts Ensembles

  • Symphonic Band I and II, (formerly Concert & Symphonic Bands), Grades 4–12
  • Percussion Ensemble, Grades 6–12
  • Jazz Band, Grades 4–12
  • Music & Media Production Ensemble (formerly New Music), Grades 6–12
  • Orchestra, Grades 6–12
  • Choir, Grades 3–12
  • Elementary Modern Rock Band, Grades 5–8
  • High School Modern Rock Band, Grades 9–12
  • Mariachi, Grades 5–12
  • Dance, Grades 6–12
  • Theatre, Grades 6–12

Click below to access information for students in the 2019-20 All-City Performing Arts program, including rehearsal and showcase schedules.

ACPA Experience and Placement Information

Students at a beginning to advanced level in their performing art form can apply for the following All-City ensembles:


Students in Choir will develop individual vocal skills while strengthening their ability to perform as part of an ensemble. Students will be given a chance to explore their vocal capacity and receive training in music theory and vocal technique that includes developing good tone quality, vowel uniformity, breathing techniques, and blend.  Through exercises, rehearsals, and performances, students will receive exposure to and experience in a variety of choral music, including spirituals, folk music, madrigals, contemporary pieces, and more. 

  • Grade Levels: 3rd through 12th
  • Preferred Experience Level: Students of all experience and skill levels are welcome in this ensemble.
  • Placement Information: An audition process will be used to place students in the appropriate parts. In order to receive the most successful placement, students should find a song that they feel best demonstrates and highlights the strengths of their voice to perform at the first rehearsal.
SYMPHONIC BAND I AND II (formerly Concert and Symphonic Bands)

Woodwind, brass, and percussion students will rehearse a wide array of wind band repertoire ranging in difficulty, style, and time period. There will be a focus on developing fundamental ensemble skills, including tone, balance, blend, musical expression, phrasing, intonation, and rhythm. Students in these ensembles are expected to attend all rehearsals, maintain a consistent at-home practice routine, and come to rehearsals with their music prepared. Students will work in collaboration with the directors and fellow musicians to create a musical experience that is satisfying for performers and audience members alike.

  • Grade Levels: 4th through 12th
  • Preferred Experience Level: Students should have at least one year of playing experience, either in band or through private lessons.
  • Placement Information: All students will be asked to perform a Concert B-flat major scale and their choice of one of the provided excerpts found here (click for link). Students should choose the excerpt that best showcases their individual ability. In order to be considered for higher placement (Symphonic Band I), students should prepare major scales up to 3 sharps and 3 flats. Scales may be performed in the style/articulation pattern of the student’s choice. Students may be asked to sight-read. 

Percussion students will rehearse a variety of pieces written for a range of percussion instruments. Students will have a direct focus on their instrument in a setting that provides the opportunity to play familiar instrumentation and experiment with more unconventional approaches to percussion. 

  • Grade Levels: 6th through 12th (and 4th and 5th graders in ACPA Bands)
  • Preferred Experience Level: Students should have at least one year of performing experience on a percussion instrument.
  • Placement Information: Placement into ACPA Bands guarantees placement into Percussion Ensemble. Any student who is not in an ACPA Band and who wishes to ONLY perform in the Percussion Ensemble must audition.

Through playing, listening and improvising in the various jazz styles, students will rehearse and perform a varied repertoire of music in the combo and big-band formats. Instruments include trumpet, trombone, saxophone, guitar, bass, piano and drums.

  • Grade Levels: 4th through 12th
  • Preferred Experience Level: Students should have at least one year of playing experience, either in a band or through private lessons.
  • Placement Information: The audition material is composed of two main musical works which vary in difficulty: Sonnymoon and Tenor Madness (click the links to download music). Students should choose and prepare to play the piece that best showcases their playing skills. In addition, all students will be asked to sight read from a lead sheet together as a group, and each student should be prepared to play an improvised solo over a blues progression.

Violin, viola, cello, and string bass musicians will come together in the Orchestra to rehearse and perform a variety of music. Orchestra members will have the opportunity to perform in a full orchestra, a string orchestra, and a chamber orchestra for advanced players. Ensemble members will show superior leadership by consistent rehearsal attendance and at-home practice.

  • Grade Levels: 4th through 12th Grade (alumni are welcome to volunteer)
  • Preferred Experience Level: Students should have at least one year of playing experience in an orchestra ensemble or through private lessons. 
  • Placement Information: Students should be prepared to play major scales in the keys of C, G, D, A, and F and a solo excerpt that best demonstrates their abilities. First-year students should prepare 1-octave scales (click for link). Students with 2 or more years should prepare 2-octave scales (click for link).

Theatre students will work and develop scenes and write monologues using script analysis, personalization and in depth study of character traits and motivation. They will work on material tailored to their interests and conflicts within their self-defined communities. Final performance will be a reflection of not only the scenes they present but of the artist’s role in their community.

  • Grade Levels: 6th through 12th
  • Preferred Experience Level: Students at all experience levels are welcome.
  • Placement Information: Students will be placed in the ensemble based on fluency, clarity, and volume of speech, stage presence, and body movement.

Students in the Dance ensemble will have the opportunity to learn and explore different styles of dance such as ballet, modern, jazz, tap, musical theatre, and hip-hop.  Students will learn how to use dance to convey meaning and a narrative. Students will exhibit notable growth and change in their physical coordination, body placement, dance vocabulary, spatial awareness, self-confidence, musicality, and performance skills. Students will also have the opportunity to use their own knowledge of dance to collaborate with their peers and instructor in creating choreography. Dance ensemble members will work together to create a positive and thorough dance experience for each other and the audience.

  • Grade Levels: 6th through 12th
  • Level of Preferred Experience: Students at all experience levels are welcome.
  • Placement Information: There will be an audition process for dancers to determine their skill level. Students will be placed into two groups: Beginner/Intermediate and Intermediate/Advanced. Students should be able to copy and/or create simple movement sequences in the audition. Please fill out this form and bring it to your first rehearsal.

Students in this ensemble will primarily focus on writing and improvising original music. As new music is generated, students will record and produce original songs using Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) like Garageband, Ableton, and other professional equipment. Students will decide on how they want to present their music to the public through conversations about branding, design, and format. Packaged songs will then be published online via private links on digital media platforms like Bandcamp and Soundcloud. Through these practices, students will gain digital literacy and experience with using technology and software for professional artistic applications.

  • Grade Levels: 6th through 12th
  • Level of Preferred Experience: Open to students of all experience levels and musical talents. Students must have a strong desire to create original music and a willingness to experiment. Exposure to digital music production software preferred.
  • Placement Information: Students must demonstrate their talents for at least one minute at the first rehearsal.

The Modern Bands consist of vocalists, keyboardists, guitarists, bassists, drummers, and occasional featured horn players. These young musicians come together to create and perform music in a rock and pop style through collaborative song selection, independent practice, and focused group rehearsals. This ensemble extends the skills student musicians have acquired in their classrooms and provides them with a unique musical experience.

  • Grade Levels: Elementary: 5th through 8th | High School: 9th through 12th
  • Level of Preferred Experience: Students should ideally have at least a year of experience on their desired instrument. Students should be able to read charts for their instrument and be able to play independently.

This ensemble will be made up of students who play violin, trumpet, guitar, vihuela, guitarrón, harp, and guitarra de golpe; however, other instrumentalists or vocalists will be considered. This performance-driven ensemble will focus on traditional mariachi song styles and techniques, and exploring how the mariachi culture has evolved through present day.

  • Grade Levels: 5th through 12th
  • Level of Preferred Experience: Students must have an understanding of their instrument and a strong desire to learn and contribute to the ensemble. Experience in playing the major keys of G, D, and A are preferred.

2019–20 All-City Performing Arts Rehearsal and Showcase Information

Click below to find rehearsal and showcase schedules and more important information related to the 2019–20 All-City Performing Arts program.