String Ensembles & Orchestras

Whether you are looking for a small chamber ensemble or a world class, globe-trotting orchestra there is a performance opportunity here for you. Select the ensembles below to learn more.

UK Symphony Orchestra

Director: John Nardolillo | Course No.: MUC 191/691, Tu/Th 3:30-6:30 PM + concerts & special events
Audition Requirements: Open to any UK student by successful audition

Absence Request Form

UKSO Concert 2013 - photo by Dana Rogers Photography

Founded in 1918, the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra is a 100-member all-student orchestra presenting more than 50 concerts each year, including classical, chamber and education concerts. The group is made up of undergraduate and graduate students from across the United States, Asia, South America and Europe. The orchestra has regularly performed with world-renowned concert artists including Itzhak Perlman, Lang Lang, Sarah Chang, Gil Shaham, Lynn Harrell, Marvin Hamlisch, Denyce Graves, Christine Brewer, Pink Martini, Ronan Tynan, Mark O’Connor, Wynonna Judd, Keith Lockhart and Arlo Guthrie. The orchestra has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., toured the state of Kentucky regularly, and toured China, playing concerts in major concert halls in Shanghai, Tianjin, Hangzhou, Yangzhou and Beijing. The orchestra’s performance at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts was broadcast on China Central Television, a network reaching more than 1.5 billion viewers. In 2010 the orchestra played for the Opening Ceremonies of the World Equestrian Games, a live performance that featured more than 1,500 performers and 200 horses. The performance was seen live on NBC in the United States by 39 million people, and by an estimated 500 million more television viewers worldwide.

The UK Symphony Orchestra collaborates yearly with UK Opera Theatre and has recently presented productions of Porgy and Bess, Madama Butterfly, La Bohème, Die Fledermaus, La Traviata, Hänsel und Gretel, Le nozze di Figaro, Die Zauberflöte, Don Giovanni, Carmen, Lucia di Lammermoor, Gianni Schicchi, Suor Angelica, Romeo et Juliette, Falstaff, Brundibar, Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera. 

The orchestra program at UK has been featured on television and radio around the world including NBC, ESPN, NPR, PBS, the BBC, the CBC, CCTV (China), ARD (Germany), SVG (Sweden) and RAI (Italy). The orchestra’s performances and recordings have also been featured and reviewed in the national press, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe the Los Angeles Times, Opera News, the American Record Guide, Billboard, and Vanity Fair magazine.

2019 Auditions

Symphont Orchestra and Philharmonia auditions are conducted together. If you have already been accepted into UKSO, you’ll be auditioning for seating. Seating in UKSO works on a revolving basis around an initial seating determined by these auditions. If you have not yet been assigned to an ensemble, your audition will determine your placement. The auditions are low pressure, so just come and play what you have prepared, and we’ll recommend the best place for you. Those auditioning for the Philharmonia only need to prepare a solo; no orchestral excerpts are required for UKPhil auditions.

Audition Excerpts (bass excluded)


Saturday, August 24 at 1pm

  • For auditions to play primarily in the first violin section, please prepare a solo, plus the following excerpts, chosen by Professor Mason:
    • Richard Strauss: Don Juan, 1st violin part, beginning through letter B
    • Mozart: Symphony No. 39, 1st movement, 1st violin part, beginning to m. 14 and m. 26 through 96
  • For auditions to play primarily in the second violin section, please prepare a solo, plus the following excerpts, chosen by Professor M. Karp:
    • Mozart: Symphony No. 39, 1st violin part, beginning through m. 41


Saturday, August 24 at 6:30pm

  • For auditions to play in the viola section, please prepare a solo, plus the following excerpts, chosen by Professor M. Karp and Professor Yu:
    • Borodin: Symphony No. 2, 1st movement, from letter K to the end of the page.
    • Weber: Der Freischutz, from letter A to letter B
    • Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5, movement 2, from bar 142 to 158


Friday, August 23 at 2pm

  • For auditions to play in the cello section, please prepare a solo, plus the following excerpts, chosen by Professor B. Karp:
    • Mozart: Symphony No. 35, 4th movement, from the beginning to bar 37.
    • Brahms: Symphony No. 2, 2nd movement, from the beginning to letter A.


Friday, August 23 at 4pm

  • For auditions to play in the bass section, please prepare a solo, plus the following excerpt, chosen by Professor Reich:
    • Beethoven: Symphony No. 5, 3rd movement “Trio,” bars 140 to 177.

If you don’t have music, please email John Nardolillo.

Recommendations for preparing excerpts:

  • Download and print the excerpts
  • Listen to several recordings of the excerpts, to become familiar with the music; mark in the tempos, using a metronome
  • Mark in fingerings and bowings
  • Allow enough time (several weeks) to prepare the excerpts; start slowly and accurately, and take them to lessons if you need help


Friday, August 23

  • 11:30am: bassoon
  • 12:30pm: oboe
  • 2pm: cello
  • 4pm: double bass

Saturday, August 24

  • 9am: trumpet
  • 11:00am: trombone
  • 1pm: violin
  • 6:30pm: viola

Sunday, August 25

  • 1pm: horn
  • 2pm: clarinet
  • 3:45pm: flute
  • 6:30pm: tuba

UK Philharmonia

MUC 191 SEC 401 | Thurs, 7:30pm-10:00pm
Fine Arts 22 (Band Room)
Marcello Cormio, conductor | John Nardolillo, Director of Orchestras
Audition Requirements: Open to any UK student by audition. Contact the director for more information.

The purpose of UK Philarmonia is to provide a positive musical and social experience to all who are interested from across the campus community while producing music at the highest level possible. Rehearsals are upbeat and fun, and the repertoire is both varied and challenging. The diversity of the ensemble itself leads to great opportunities for friendship and mentorship both within the context of music-making and beyond. In addition, the UK Philharmonia aspires to offer a friendly artistic environment that cultivates participation in and advocacy for music on our campus and in our society at large.

UK Philharmonia auditions are conducted together with the UK Symphony Orchestra. Please see the UKSO tab above for audition information.

Guitar Ensemble

The University of Kentucky Guitar Ensemble performs music for solo guitar, multiple guitars and guitars with other instruments. The guitar ensemble’s repertoire consists of music from different eras and countries, to students' arrangements of pop and rock music. Availability for performance and repertoire options depend on the number of students enrolled in the ensemble each semester. For further information please contact the University of Kentucky Guitar Instructor Dieter Hennings.

Niles & Verdi String Quartets

Musicians posedThe UK School of Music support two academic string quartets. The Niles String Quartet is an elite group of graduate students who receive stipends and other considerations. The Verdi String Quartet consists of top graduate and/or undergraduate students. In recent years, the quartets have gained national notoriety:

  • The Verdi String Quartet, (Daniel Brier and Kyle Van Arsdalen, violins; Ivan Ugorich, viola; and Christopher Erickson, cello) took first place in the college division of the 16th annual Macauley Chamber Music Competition (March 2012).
  • Verdi String Quartet, Second Place in the collegiate division of the 15th annual Macauley Chamber Music Competition (2010).
  • Niles Quartet, First Place in the college division of the Macauley Chamber Competition (2008), invited to study at the Banff Festival, and coached with members of the Juilliard String Quartet in New York (2008).

Contact Benjamin Karp for more information.