Student Playing Cello

Symphony Orchestra

The Ensemble

Symphony Orchestra logo

The Coe College Symphony Orchestra offers a comprehensive ensemble experience for students seeking to develop their orchestral playing skills, expand their studies on their instruments, and learn exciting repertoire. The CCSO exemplifies the collaborative spirit of a liberal arts education by including music majors, non-majors, and faculty members. Orchestra members enjoy the opportunity to perform multiple times per semester in a variety of orchestral and collaborative concerts in venues on campus, off campus, and on tour. The CCSO prides itself on maintaining high artistic standards and actively contributing to the vibrant musical culture at Coe and throughout the community.

Our Director

Michelle Perrin Blair Headshot

Director of Orchestras and Assistant Professor of Music at Coe College, Michelle Perrin Blair was honored to be selected as one of twelve conducting fellows for the 2018 International Women's Conducting Workshop in New York City. Blair's other recent honors include the Beahl and Irene H. Perrine Faculty Fellowship (2016), the PEO Scholar Award (2014), the Richard and Nancy Schissler Fellowship in Orchestral Conducting (2013), and the Bernard Osher Scholarship (Monteux School 2012). Blair currently serves as Founder & Artistic Director of PREMIER Chamber Orchestra, Conductor-in-Residence of Revival Theatre Company (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) and Conductor of Durward Contemporary Chamber Music Ensemble (Coralville, Iowa). Blair holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Houston, where she studied orchestral conducting with Maestro Franz Anton Krager and served as Assistant Director of the AURA Contemporary Ensemble for three years. Blair earned her Master of Music degree in conducting from the University of Texas at Arlington under the tutelage of her lifelong mentor, Dr. Clifton Evans. Off the podium, Blair is an active violinist and holds a Bachelor of Music degree in violin performance from Southwestern University. 

All-State Strings Clinic

Click here to visit the clinic's event website, where you can register for free as well as access the schedule, faculty bios, audition excerpts, rehearsal sheet music, and more!

Informational Postcard for 2019 All-State Strings Clinic

Upcoming Events

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Can't join us in person? Live stream our concerts from home!


Members' Center

Fall 2019 First-Year Auditions: 8/20/19

Thank you for your interest in becoming a member of the Coe College Symphony Orchestra (CCSO)! Membership in the CCSO is open, by audition, to all Coe and Kirkwood students. Auditions for new students will take place during orientation week (August 20). Audition schedules will be sent to your Coe email address; respond to that email to confirm your audition time. Please read the audition information below.

Audition Requirements

  • 1 two-octave scale (major or minor) of the student's choice;
  • Prepared solo (unaccompanied), 3-5 minutes, from the classical or pop repertoire;
  • 1-2 assigned orchestral excerpt(s) posted below.

At the audition

  • Arrive 10 minutes prior to your scheduled audition time. 
  • Arrive warmed up and ready to perform.
  • Come prepared on all repertoire with your own copies of the music (including the orchestral excerpt(s)). 

Fall 2019 Chair Tests 8/22/19: Returning Students ONLY 

Returning students who are assigned to Orchestra will perform chair tests during the first week of the fall term (August 22). All players (including those not registered for MUA-103 Symphony Orchestra) are required to perform chair tests. Chair test schedules will be posted outside the Director of Orchestra's office (Marquis 211) on the first day of classes. Please read the information on chair tests below.

Chair Test Requirements

  • 2 two- or three-octave scales (major or minor) chosen by the adjudicator;
  • Prepared solo, unaccompanied, from the classical or pop repertoire;
  • 1-2 assigned orchestral excerpt(s) posted below.

At the audition

  • Arrive 10 minutes prior to your scheduled audition time. 
  • Arrive warmed up and ready to perform.
  • Come prepared on all repertoire with your own copies of the music (including the orchestral excerpt(s)). 

Part Assignments

CCSO Members can now access their assigned orchestral parts here! Follow the links to download and print your parts for rehearsal. 

Check back for Fall 2019 perusal parts. Part assignments will not be available until after Fall auditions have been completed by all students.


Check back for the Fall 2019 CCSO Syllabus.

Social Media

Join the CCSO Facebook group to stay up to date on daily rehearsal schedules, and like our page to help us publicize our events!

Rehearsal Schedule

The CCSO rehearses twice a week in Sinclair Auditorium: Tuesdays 3:30-5:30 PM; Thursdays 7:00-9:00 PM. Please take note of the following important dates for the Fall 2019 term:

  • 8/20 First-Year and New Student Auditions
  • 8/22 Returning Student Auditions
  • 8/27 First Rehearsal
  • 10/10-10/11 Fall Break
  • 10/24 (7-10 PM) Homecoming Showcase Dress Rehearsal
  • 11/15 (7-10 PM) Fall Concert Dress Rehearsal

Corridor Music Fellowship

The Coe College Symphony Orchestra's (CCSO) Corridor Music Fellowship program identifies outstanding high school musicians in the Corridor who have demonstrated exceptional technical and musical skills on their instruments, significant potential for ensemble leadership, and a passion for orchestral playing. The Fellowship gives students the opportunity to participate in the CCSO. Contact Dr. Michelle Perrin-Blair for more information (

Corridor Music Fellowship Testimonials

"Because of my experiences with the Coe orchestra, I've become a much more responsive and adaptive orchestral player, and I can feel the rhythm in a way that helps the rest of my section. [Dr. Blair's] interpretations of the music have helped me see new ways to convey different attitudes through my playing, and that has been valuable to me both in my high school orchestra and on my own. I've been challenged by the music I have played, and I appreciate the opportunity to play with other dedicated and focused instrumentalists. Thank you, and I hope I see you next year!"
- Hannah Fusselman (Kennedy High School)

"My experience in the Coe College Orchestra was phenomenal. I met plenty of new people that not only were good players, but were going through the college life and were great to talk to about my upcoming college preparation. Besides just the players, the music we played was a variety of literature that was both challenging and fun, not to mention wonderfully conducted by a lively Dr. Blair. If I could play with Coe again in the future, you wouldn't have to ask me twice, I truly loved the experience."
- Caleb Weatherby (Linn-Mar High School)

Symphony Orchestra History

Photographic evidence suggests that the orchestral tradition at Coe goes back to at least 1902. With starched collars and high-buttoned shoes the dozen or so participants of that coeducational ensemble held pose for an unidentified photographer in a picture that remains the earliest evidence of an orchestra on campus. The fact that it included both men and women is significant. Whatever developed from that early ensemble was washed away by the tide of World War I in 1913. It was not until 1924, a year after founding the Cedar Rapids Symphony at Coe, that Dr. Joseph Kitchin reorganized the Coe student orchestra. Dr. Kitchin, a well known faculty violinist and conductor, kept the orchestra thriving until his retirement in 1957. Since then several orchestral ensembles have evolved at the college. In 1957, the orchestra became known as the Coe-Promenade Orchestra, mixing community musicians with students and fulfilling the mission of music on the lighter side. The Promenade Orchestra was led by several conductors: Dallas Tjaden (1957-1962 and 1966-1967), Norman Stafford (1963-1965), Thomas Slattery (1967-1976), and Timothaeus Topolewski (1976-1981). From 1981 to 1984 the group was known as the Coe Chamber Orchestra. The Coe College Symphony Orchestra was later revived in 1995 by Dr. Jerry Owen.

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