fifth house ensemble

“You have to admire the sheer imaginative chutzpah these young performers bring to their envelope-pushing enterprise.”

-John Von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

“Young chamber groups devoted to shaking up the traditional concert experience are blossoming in Chicago, and one of the best is the five-year-old Fifth House Ensemble… They are a talented crew, and they brought spontaneity and hair-trigger responsiveness to the music of Black Violet.”

-Wynne Delacoma, Musical America


The Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble is a versatile and dynamic group praised by the New York Times for its “conviction, authority, and finesse.” Defined by limitless imagination, the ensemble engages curiosity to create unexpected connections with artistic collaborators and audiences of all types, breathing life into repertoire both established and emerging. Over the last decade, the ensemble has engaged theater groups, visual artists, animators, living composers, astronomers, folk musicians and corporate innovators through transformative cross-media performance experiences for audiences of every type.

As part of its 2016-2017 season, Fifth House Ensemble (5HE) celebrates the release of Nedudim, its latest release on Cedille Records, with Mediterranean folk band Baladino. It has been praised as “an impeccable album with an extraordinary array of songs from Spain’s Jewish diaspora and the best of contemporary chamber music” by World Music Central. The ensemble performs Dan Visconti’s Soundings at the inaugural Ear Taxi Festival, and will tour with Mike Mills and Robert McDuffieperforming Mills’ Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra. 5HE visits Mount Royal University (Calgary, AB) with Journey, an interactive arrangement for 5HE of Austin Wintory’s Grammy-nominated score responsive to live game play; and Concordia University (Ann Arbor, MI) with Voices from the Dust Bowl, a collaboration with the Chicago bluegrass band Henhouse Prowlers and composer Steven Snowden that engages worker stories from the Library of Congress’s archives and from worker rights organizations nationwide. 5HE also visits The Driehaus Museum, Carolina Strings Academy, the Eastman School of Music, DePauw University’s 21CMPosium, and the Cleveland Institute of Music for performances, training workshops, and residency activities this season.

Performances in previous seasons include those at Ravinia, Montalvo Arts Center (CA), the Texas Performing Arts, Civic Music Association (IA), Old Town School of Folk Music, WFMT Impromptu, the Chicago Cultural Center, Rush Hour Concerts at St. James, National Sawdust (NY) and the Miller Theatre (NY).

Through the ensemble’s heartfelt social and civic practice work, 5HE has co-created artistic projects with urban neighborhoods, social service organizations, and an agricultural community to spark conversations on issues that matter. Recent projects include Broken Text, a collaboration with Raven Theatre and DJ Searchl1te inspired by multi-week residencies at the Cook County Temporary Youth Detention Center and St. Leonard’s Ministries; Nedudim, an exploration of music and cultural identity in collaboration with Baladino that engages Chicago-based organizations representing Israel, Iran, Germany and Spain, and Harvest, a year-long partnership with DePauw University and the Greencastle, IN community culminating in a Mother’s Day celebration of the people, places, and stories of Putnam County. This season, 5HE partners with Storycatchers Theatre’s Changing Voices Ensemble, a supported employment program for recently released court-involved teens, to develop a new theatrical work based on the youth actors’ own experiences and those of participants in 5HE’s residency programs for homeless or incarcerated youth and adults.

Bringing its signature connective programming from the stage to the classroom, 5HE develops young audiences through curriculum-integrated interactive concerts and residencies for students grades K-12. A member of the Illinois Arts Council’s Arts-in-Education Roster, 5HE has presented performances and residencies at Chicago public schools and the Chicago Cultural Center in partnership with the International Music Foundation, the Chicago Teachers’ Center, Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, and Ravinia’s Reach*Teach*Play program. Programs are customized to the curriculum of each school, with the goals of promoting active listening skills and connecting music to a wide variety of subjects.

As an extension of this work, 5HE enters its second year of partnership with Loyola University’s Center for Urban Research and Learning this season, through which the ensemble is in residence at sites serving at-risk youth and adults including Deborah’s Place, Teen Living Programs, and Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School at the Chicago Temporary Youth Detention Center.

Fifth House also frequently performs for college audiences, including workshops, residencies, and performances at Yale College, Eastman School of Music, New England Conservatory, Indiana University, Northwestern University, DePaul University, and the Colburn School. In 2012, 5HE launched fresh inc, a one of a kind chamber music festival that brings together composers and instrumentalists for side-by-side performances, receiving creative presentation and entrepreneurship training.

5HE is currently an Ensemble in Residence at the Music Institute of Chicago.


“In an era where we risk accountability driving out creativity, it is wonderful to have a program that allows students to learn content at high levels within a fine arts framework. 5HE has demonstrated excellence in using music to do what music does best—reaching minds and hearts.”

-Barbara Kent, Principal, Burley Elementary School