Pre-College Chamber Music

Coordinator – Dr. Aaron Jacobs 
Faculty Liaison – Daniel McDonough, Jupiter Quartet

COVID-19 UPDATE: The Illinois String Academy will continue to lead instruction 100% online throughout the Spring 2021 semester, or until University policies are updated to allow for ISA in-person instruction to occur. We are accepting new students and offering free trials, and all of our previously cancelled offerings have returned this semester in online formats.


Fall 2020 auditions were held July 18 & 19. However, we will be hearing auditions by appointment leading up to Spring semester 2021. Any interested students who have not auditioned are encouraged to contact us at any time. Interested students may audition for the East Central Illinois Youth Orchestra and the Illinois Chamber Music Academy simultaneously. 

Contact us to request an audition time. 

Audition Requirements

About the Program

The Pre-College Chamber Music Program of the Illinois String Academy was designed for advanced pianists and string players. The program is open to wind and brass players as well, with acceptance dependent upon the feasibility of appropriate chamber group placement and available repertoire.

Students are selected by audition and placed into chamber ensembles that study and perform standard repertoire. The Academy program consists of weekly rehearsals, coachings, studio classes, and theory/musicianship lessons with graduate student and postdoctoral instructors. Coaching sessions and master classes are regularly held with School of Music faculty members. Each semester culminates in a Program-wide recital.

Program instruction includes participation in theory classes, which are open to all youth age 10-18 regardless of their participation in the full chamber music program.

Contact Information

Dr. Aaron Jacobs, Coordinator
Trevor Thompson - Assistant Coordinator / Chamber Music
Stephen Burian, Public Engagement Assistant Director

Program Instructors

  • Aaron Jacobs – Program Coordinator / Chamber Music
  • Trevor Thompson – Assistant Coordinator / Chamber Music
  • Tatiana Shustova – Chamber Music / Theory 
  • Chia-Ying Chan – Chamber Music / Theory 
  • Zhanna Lehmann – Theory 
  • Ralph Lewis – Composition / Theory
  • Leah Sweeney – Chamber Music
    Renata Caceres – Chamber Music

Participating School of Music Faculty



The curriculum of the Pre-College Chamber Music Program includes traditional performance repertoire, primarily from the classical, romantic and 20th century chamber music repertoire for strings and piano. Technical development is augmented with musicianship study in weekly theory classes for all students. Composition classes are also offered as an option, with the performance of student compositions by their peers in May.All pupils participate in weekly rehearsals and coachings and perform on the recitals at the end of each semester. The course of instruction coincides with the University calendar and consists of two 14-week semesters.

Saturday Schedule

  • 12:30 to 1:20 – Composition (elective)
  • 1:30 to 2:30 – Theory/musicianship
  • 2:40 to 3:25 – Chamber Orchestra or Piano Ensemble
  • 3:30 to 5:00 – Chamber Coachings and Rehearsals 
  • If this schedule is modified for master classes or other events, participants will be notified well in advance. We will still be operating between 12:30 PM and 5:00 PM. 

Orientation and Dates of Instruction 

Fall 2020 Calendar

  • Pre-College Chamber Music and theory/musicianship/composition classes are cancelled for the Fall 2020 semester. 

Spring 2021 Calendar (tentative)

  • Orientation and theory assessment – 2:00 PM, February 2, 2021
    • Parents should plan to attend the first hour
    • Non chamber music students (those enrolling in theory or composition only) will be dismissed upon completion of the theory assessment. 
    • Chamber music students will be dismissed at 5:30PM
  • Instructional dates; Saturdays (13 dates)
    • 2/6, 2/13, 2/20, 2/27, 3/6, 3/13, 3/27, 4/3, 4/10, 4/17, 4/24, 5/1, 5/8
    • Academy will not meet during the second Saturday of spring break: 3/20
  • Performance – 7:30 PM, Sunday, May 9, 2021

Attendance Policy 

  • Only one absence is permitted per semester. Additional absences or systematic conflicts (sports seasons, marching band, etc.) should be discussed with the ICMA Coordinator, Aaron Jacobs. 
  • Attendance at dress rehearsals and Fall/Spring Concert Dates is mandatory for all students participating in chamber ensembles or Piano Ensemble 
  • Extenuating circumstances affecting student attendance will always be taken under consideration at the discretion of the ICMA Coordinator. 
  • Students are billed the full tuition rate regardless of attendance. 
  • If a class is cancelled due to extenuating circumstances, every effort will be made to reschedule. 

Student Preparation Policy 

All students are to be prepared to be a contributing member of their ensemble at every rehearsal, coaching, and class. This means coming with the necessary materials (instrument, part, score, and pencil) and being able to play their part (with fingerings and bowings marked as needed). Performance on the recitals is earned by regular progress towards mastery of the repertoire assigned. If an instructor feels after 3 or 4 coachings that the student is not making adequate progress, the parents will be asked to help supervise practicing for quicker progress. If, after involving the parents, the situation does not improve, reassignment may be necessary.