Mission and Mini Mission join an NIU ensemble rehearsal.

All NIU students, regardless of major are welcome to audition for a School of Music Large Ensemble. Some ensembles, including, World Music Ensembles, All-University Steelband, and University Chorus do not require an audition. Please contact Brigid Findley at bcrawford@niu.edu for questions about registering for ensembles.

Information for Fall 2023 Large Ensemble Auditions is available now!


Ensemble Auditions

Audition Information 

  • All undergraduate string, wind, and percussion students must appear for large ensemble auditions. Please prepare all audition materials thoroughly for your audition. 

  • For any band or orchestral excerpts, please listen to representative recordings to learn the appropriate style, tempo and dynamics for the passage. Performing these aspects of the music correctly is a large part of the audition. 
    • Learning the music, by analytical listening to multiple versions of the excerpts, will help you grow as a musician and will reflect positively on your audition placement. 

    • Playing the right notes but in the wrong style or wrong tempo sends a different message to the audition panel. 

    • Listen and analyze before you practice 
  • Please make every effort to audition during the time frame designated for your instrument. Doing so gives you the best opportunity for the conductors to accurately assess your skills as compared to your colleagues. 

  • Professional attire is expected. 

  • Bring a copy of your class schedule to the auditions. The conductors may ask for it if needed. 
  • Arrive early for your scheduled time. Be prepared to play early if requested to do so. 

Ensemble Audition Music

Schedule your Ensemble Audition

Ensemble Times 

  • MUSE 330/630: Wind Symphony - M/W 2:00-3:40 p.m.

  • MUSE 331/631: Wind Ensemble - Tu/Th 2:00-3:50 p.m., M/W 1:00-1:50 p.m. (sectionals)

  • MUSE 360/660: NIU Philharmonic – M/W 2:00-3:50 p.m., Tu/Th 4:00-4:50 (sectionals)

If you are interested in Chamber Music Ensembles, please contact your studio faculty member and Brigid Findley at bcrawford@niu.edu for more details regarding registration and ensemble placement. 

  • MUSE 315/615: String Ensemble
    • M/W 1:00-1:50 p.m. OR Tu/Th 1:00-1:50 p.m.
  • MUSE 316/616: Woodwind Ensemble
    • M/W 1:00-1:50 p.m. OR Tu/Th 1:00-1:50 p.m.
    • (sec. 3) Flute Choir (Fri 12-1 p.m.)
  • MUSE 317/617: Brass Ensemble
    • M/W 1:00-1:50 p.m. OR Tu/Th 1:00-1:50 p.m.
    • (sec. 3) Trombone Choir – Fri 12:00-1:50 p.m.
  • MUSE 318/618: Percussion Ensemble
    • M/W 12:00-12:50 p.m. OR Tu/Th 12:00-12:50 p.m.
  • MUSE 320/620: Keyboard Ensemble – TBD
  • MUSE 365/665: Campus String Orchestra – Mon 7:30-10:00 p.m.

Audition Information

All jazz majors and any other students interested in participating in a jazz ensemble must complete an audition. A student’s audition will be used in determining placement in combos and big bands (JO/JE/U-Jazz).

Please read the following sections for audition requirements, excerpts, and ensemble audition registration.

Audition music is available

Saxophone, Trombone, and Trumpet players will sign up for an individual audition time; Rhythm players will sign up for a block of time. Please plan to be present for X time.


  • Students will be expected to improvise on the blues form (Bb, F, Db medium and up tempo) and Rhythm” changes form (Bb, up tempo).
  • Blues melody of choice; improvise 2 choruses (*rhythm section players will also comp appropriate to style)
  • Rhythm changes or standard melody of choice; improvise 1 chorus*

Assigned audition excerpt:

  • Excepts will be specific to each studio.
  • Drummers will be expected to demonstrate Swing, Bossa Nova, Samba, Jazz Waltz, Jazz Ballad, Funk, ECM, Afro-Cuban and Mambo4 feels.

Sight reading

Music will be provided for sight-reading – lead sheet of standard or common jazz tune. Improvisation over the progression in the sight-reading examples may be expected as well.

Drummers will be given excerpt of big band drum part to demonstrate ability to read hits and play appropriate fills/set-ups.

Combo and Big Band (Jazz Orchestra/Jazz Ensemble)

Individual auditions will take place within your applied studio and will be used in determining combo placement and will assist in big band placement (Jazz Orchestra/Jazz Ensemble). *Jazz majors must participate in these auditions. Others who are auditioning for big band only may opt out of the individual audition and attend the group big band audition detailed below.

For the individual audition, students will be asked to demonstrate:

  1. Technique
    1. Scales/technical exercises determined by the applied teacher.
    2. Common triad and 7th chord arpeggios (Major, minor, dominant, diminished) 
  1. Improvisation
  2. Blues melody of choice; improvise 2 choruses (rhythm section players will also comp appropriate to style);
  3. Rhythm changes or standard melody of choice; improvise 1 chorus (rhythm section players will also comp appropriate to style)


  1. Reading
  2. Assigned audition excerpts
  3. Sight reading which may include a lead sheet of standard or common jazz tune; improvise 1 chorus


You should schedule your individual audition using the bookings sign-up link.

The schedule will be as follows:

Saxophone – Tuesday, August 29 1pm-3:30pm – MB 109

Brass          – Tuesday, August 29 10am-12pm – MB 122

Guitar         – Tuesday, August 29 1pm-4pm – MB 105

Piano          – Monday, August 28 10am-12pm – MB 143

Bass          – Wednesday, August 30 12pm-2pm – MB 473

Drums        – Tuesday, August 29, 12:45-3:45pm – MB 111 and will consist of:

  1. Technique
    • Demonstration of Swing, Bossa Nova, Samba, Jazz Waltz, Jazz Ballad, Funk, ECM, Afro-Cuban, Mambo
  2. Improvisation
    • Perform and improvise to backing tracks over jazz standards in AABA form and 12-Bar Blues forms.
  3. Reading
    • Assigned piece and sight reading


Additional Big Band Auditions

Big band auditions will be held on Tuesday, August 29 from 4pm–5:50pm and will continue on Wednesday, August 30 from 2pm–3:50pm in MB 158.

Students will audition in various configurations on different parts (lead parts, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) and will be required to play the posted music excerpts. Music will also be provided for sight-reading and each student will read a minimum of 2 charts. Improvisation over the progression in the sight-reading examples will be expected as well. Students will be expected to improvise on the blues form (Bb, F, Db medium and up tempo) and “Rhythm” changes form (Bb, up tempo).

Big bands meet at the following times:

  • Jazz Orchestra (M/W 2pm–3:50pm) Thomas, dir.
  • Jazz Ensemble (T/Th 4pm–5:50pm) Villanueva/GA, dirs.


Results will be posted no later than the end of the first week and announced (if possible) at the first Jazz Convocation, Wednesday, August 30 at 4:30pm. (location TBA)


Contact: Reggie Thomas (reggiethomas@niu.edu)

Ensemble Times

  • NIU Jazz Orchestra
    • M/W 2:00 - 3:50 p.m.
  • Jazz Ensemble
    • T/Th 4 p.m. – 5:50 p.m.
  • University Jazz Band 
    • M/W 5:40 p.m. – 7:20 p.m.
  • MUSE 324/624: Jazz Combos 
    • M/W 1 – 1:50 p.m. OR Tu/Th 1 - 1:50 p.m.
    • (sec 3) Jazztet - M/W 11 - 11:50 a.m.



Greetings from Dr. Johnson and Dr. Doherty! 

Students who are interested in joining Chamber or Concert Choir for Fall2023, please use the following registration link to sign up for your audition.

Audition Music 

Register for your Choir Audition

University Chorus does not require an audition. Students may register until the deadline to enroll in Spring classes. Please email Dr. Doherty at mdoherty@niu.edu with questions.

 If you have any questions, please email us at Dr. Johnson (ejohnsn@niu.edu) or Dr. Doherty (mdoherty@niu.edu).  We are looking forward to making music with you this spring!!!

Drs. Johnson and Doherty  


  • Concert Choir (MUSE 345/645): M/W 2:00-2:50 p.m. AND Tu/Th 2:00-3:15 p.m.
    • This is an auditioned large ensemble. The group has both music majors and non-majors with good music skills. Many of the non-music majors come from strong HS choral programs and they are looking for the challenges and rewards of advanced choral music. Concert Choir often performs for area high schools and short run-out concerts. In the spring, Concert Choir often performs large choral orchestral works with the NIU Philharmonic. This ensemble is conducted by Dr. Johnson.
  • Chamber Choir (MUSE 341/641): M/W/F 1:00-1:50 p.m.
    • This is a select mixed vocal ensemble of 16-20 singers that focuses on advanced ensemble repertoire. Personal performance expectations are high as singers are often assigned one or two voices per part. Chamber Choir often performs off campus events representing the university as various official functions. Enrollment is open to all NIU students through the audition process, but there is a high degree of music reading proficiency and outside class independent work expected. This ensemble is conducted by Dr. Johnson.
  • University Chorus (MUSE 342/642): M/W 4:00-5:15 p.m.
    • This is a non-auditioned SATB choir. University Chorus is often a mix of instrumental music majors and singers from other majors across campus who had great high school choral experiences and they just want to keep singing in college. This ensemble is conducted by Dr. Doherty.

Opera Theatre is a great opportunity for students to learn more about opera and expand their musical and performance experiences. All students, regardless of major, are eligible to audition at the beginning of the Fall semester for both the Fall performance of Acting the Song/Opera Scenes and the Spring semester performance of a fully staged opera (show to be announced).  

Students interested in more musical theatre repertoire are encouraged to be  in MUSE 343, section 1.  MUSE 343, section 2 is designed for advanced students and more opera focused repertoire. These classes teach valuable performance skills that will strengthen anyone's ability to perform onstage or learn to be in front of an audience or classroom.

Both Musical Theatre and Classical Repertoire are used in the Acting the Song and Opera Scenes courses. If you do not audition in the Fall semester but would like to participate in the Opera in Spring, please contact Professor Wester (jwester@niu.edu) to schedule an independent audition.

Opera audition sign up

Auditionees should prepare two songs – one in a foreign language and one in English. Art songs may be sung in place of an aria. Questions? Please contact Professor Wester at jwester@niu.edu.

Ensemble Times

  • MUSE 343/643: Opera Theatre
    • Tu/Th 3:30-5:00 p.m. (section 1), 5:00-6:30 p.m. (section 2)

The All-University Steelband is open to any student, regardless of major (music and non-music). The ability to read music is preferred. All Steelpan majors will enroll in Steelband I.

Please contact Professor Liam Teague at lteague@niu.edu with questions about ensembles or to join Steelband I. Contact Brigid Findley at bcrawford@niu.ed with questions on enrolling in steelpan ensembles. 

Ensemble Times

All University Steelband (MUSE 373/673)

  • Tu/Th: 4:30 – 5:30 pm

Steelband I (MUSE 372/672)

  • M/Tu/W/Th: 1:00 – 1:50 pm

We have numerous additional World Music ensembles for students to participate in addition to our Steelpan ensembles. There is no audition for many of these ensembles and all students are welcome to register and participate. Please contact Dr. Jui-Ching Wang at jcwang@niu.edu if you have questions.

Ensemble Times

MUSE 321/621 Mixed Ensemble 

  • (sec. 2) Thai Ensemble Tu: 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
  • (sec. 4) Korean Drumming M: 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

MUSE 370/670 Gamelan

  • M: 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.

MUSE 375/675 Chinese Music Ensemble

  • W: 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Banda NIU

Banda NIU is an ensemble in the NIU School of Music that honors the tradition of the great bandas from Mexican and performs styles from across Latin America. Its long and rich history is drawn on collaboration between European immigrants to Mexico in the 1800s and popular Mexican song. The most popular subgenre of regional Mexican music, Banda relies solely on an instrumentation of wind instruments. It is open to all students and anyone in the northern Illinois community. Interested musicians should be able to read music and have considerable performance experience on clarinet, trumpet, trombone, tuba/sousaphone, drums, percussion or voice.  

MUSE 321/621: Mixed Ensemble  

  • (Sec. 1) Banda NIU F: 2:30 – 4:00 pm 

Mariachi NIU

Mariachi NIU is the mariachi ensemble of the NIU School of Music, performing traditional music from Mexico. It is open to all students and anyone in the northern Illinois community. Interested musicians should be able to read music and have considerable performance experience with their instrument including violin, guitar, vihuela, guitarrón, trumpet, harp and voice.

MUSE 321/621: Mixed Ensemble  

  • (Sec. 3) Mariachi NIU TBD 

Students interested in participating in Banda and Mariachi should contact Dr. Scanlon (cscanlon1@niu.edu). Contact Brigid Findley at bcrawford@niu.edu with questions on enrolling in steelpan ensembles.

Community School of the Arts

Non-music majors may also participate in the Community School of the Arts, which offers music lessons and ensembles for people in the community. The teachers are community musicians, as well as School of Music graduate and undergraduate students and faculty. These activities do not carry any credit hours. Visit the Office of External Programs to learn more.

Contact Us

Music Building
Monday - Friday
8 a.m. - noon
1 - 4:30 p.m.
Austyn V. Menk
Music Admissions Coordinator
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