Special Repertory Ensembles


Each of the Special Repertory Ensembles sponsored by the Department of Music is conducted by an expert in the field.  All of the ensemble directors are active and acclaimed performers in the Chicago area, and many have performing careers that stretch throughout the United States and around the world.  Each of the groups holds its own set of auditions and/or invitational open houses at the beginning of the academic year.  In some cases, membership is open to musicians with no prior experience in the genre.  See individual ensemble listings for more information.

The Special Repertory Ensembles include:

Early Music Ensemble  •  David Douglass and Ellen Hargis of the Newberry Consort, Directors

Student Coordinator: Aimee Gonzalez

The Early Music Ensemble is an historically-oriented performance and study group led by members of the Newberry Consort, Ensemble-in-Residence at the University of Chicago.  Participation in the group is open to anyone in the University community with music-reading experience;  private lessons and coaching in voice and early instruments are available through the Newberry Consort, in conjunction with EME membership.  EME repertoire is drawn from 15th- to 17th-century sources, with special emphasis on historically-informed performance practices such as reading from original notation, improvisation, and ornamentation.  The Early Music Ensemble also provides a forum for undergraduate majors and graduate students in Music who wish to explore musical traditions and repertories particular to their scholarly research.  Collaborations with professional performers take place through the year, culminating in the Early Music Ensemble’s year-end spring concert.

In lieu of auditions, the Early Music Ensemble hosts an annual Open House for interested musicians in the beginning of Autumn Quarter. All interested musicians as well as intrigued novices are invited to attend.

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Jazz X-tet and Jazz Combo  •  Mwata Bowden, Director

Known for its boldness in showcasing cutting-edge works, the UChicago Jazz X-tet is a versatile collection of 12 to 15 musicians, frequently joined in performance by noted Chicago-area professionals.  The X-tet’s three-concert season offers a variety of pieces ranging from jazz standards to hip-hop, often in arrangements that are custom-designed for the ensemble by its own members.  Both in rehearsal and in performance the X-tet focuses on developing the improvisational skills of its musicians, as well as on deepening their understanding of the wide-ranging jazz idiom.  The group has issued two CDs, and frequently performs for University events on campus and elsewhere in the city.  In addition to the Jazz X-tet itself, one or more small jazz combo groups are set up each year to provide training and experience to interested musicians, and to perform informally on campus.

The Jazz X-tet holds auditions at the beginning of the autumn quarter.  Membership is limited by the size of the ensemble. Interested musicians are encouraged also to audition for membership in another Department of Music performance ensemble, particularly the University Wind Ensemble.

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Middle East Music Ensemble  •  Wanees Zarour, Director

The Middle East Music Ensemble explores a variety of classical, neo-classical, and popular musical forms from throughout the Middle East, encompassing compositional and improvisational techniques unique to non-Western musical cultures.  Members perform on traditional instruments, often in company with noted guest artists, and present multiple concerts both on and off campus.  No previous experience in the genre is required, but the ability to read music is necessary.  Membership in the Middle East Music Ensemble includes students, faculty, and staff of the University, as well as community members interested in the art and music of the region. 

In lieu of auditions, the Middle East Music Ensemble hosts an Open House each year at the beginning of Autumn Quarter.

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New Music Ensemble  •  Barbara Schubert, Artistic Director

The New Music Ensemble is a group of highly accomplished professional musicians who are devoted to presenting world premieres of cutting-edge works by Department of Music graduate students in composition, as well as recent chamber music by faculty members at UChicago and other area institutions.  Select classics of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century are likewise featured.  The acclaimed Spektral Quartet, Ensemble-in-Residence for the University of Chicago Department of Music, forms the core of the NME.  The quartet is joined by members of the performance faculty as well as a roster of skilled area professionals for the New Music Ensemble’s three to four concerts per season.  In recent years, the NME has presented dozens world premieres and an equal number of U.S. or Chicago premieres, plus works by Drew Baker, Marcos Balter, Matthias Pintscher, Bernard Rands, Kaija Sariaho, Augusta Read Thomas, and more.  The NME’s May 2012 presentation of Andrea Clearfield’s Lung-Ta, with artwork by Maureen Drdak and choreography by the Group Motion Dance Company of Philadelphia, marked the inaugural phase of a series of multi-media, multi-disciplinary performances planned for upcoming seasons.

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South Asian Music Ensemble  •  Minu Pasupathi and Bertie Kibreah, Directors

The South Asian Music Ensemble explores a variety of classical, vernacular, and popular song repertories from the Indian Subcontinent, with membership open to beginners as well as to more experienced performers with a background in South Asian music. The ensemble focuses on teaching vocal techniques, stylistic features, compositional forms, improvisational practices, and performance conventions specific to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and other South Asian diasporas. In addition to participating in weekly ensemble rehearsals, members have the option of attending voice coaching sessions and/or engaging the instructor for private lessons. Membership is open to students, faculty, and staff of the University, as well as to community members interested in South Asian music. Bertie Kibreah assistant directs the South Asian Music Ensemble.

In lieu of auditions, the South Asian Music Ensemble hosts an Open House each year at the beginning of Autumn Quarter.