History of the Orchestra


David Katz, founding music director

The Chicago Bar Association Symphony Orchestra is Chicagoland's unique orchestra of attorneys, judges and law students. Growing from just a handful of musicians at its first rehearsal in 1986, the CBASO now regularly fields an orchestra of 75 musicians or more, virtually all affiliated with Chicago's legal community..


The musical momentum initiated by a small group of lawyers has grown into today's CBASO, a musical group collaborating to present exciting and increasingly challenging musical works each season. Under the direction of professional conductor and founding music director, David Katz, the CBASO has performed in venues ranging from Daley Center courtrooms to Chicago's Symphony Center.

The orchestra performs at many public events for the Chicago Bar Association, its prime sponsor, including annual Law Day celebrations on Daley Plaza. Other notable performances have included the Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration at Navy Pier with famed author Doris Kearns Goodwin, and a 2010 gala for retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. The orchestra is also noted for having presented the very first performances of Gilbert and Sullivan's courtroom operetta, Trial By Jury, in a working courtroom, with a cast, orchestra and chorus made up entirely of legal professionals.


To mark its 20th anniversary in 2006, the CBASO performed Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 at Navy Pier on the final evening of the convention of World Bar Associations. In 2011 the CBASO, CBA Chorus and guest choirs, nearly 300 musicians in all, performed Carl Orff's Carmina Burana at Symphony Center to a sell-out crowd to celebrate the Orchestra's 25th anniversary. The chorus and orchestra returned to Symphony Center in 2015 to present "Something Wonderful!", an evening of music by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

When not at Symphony Center or the Daley Plaza, the CBASO's performance home is St. James Episcopal Cathedral at Wabash and Huron in Chicago. 2017-18 concert highlights include Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, Schubert's Symphony No. 3, and choral/orchestral works by Coleridge-Taylor, Mozart, Vivaldi, and Rossini.