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


Praised by the New York Times for its “conviction, authority, and finesse,” the Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble harnesses the collaborative spirit of chamber music to reach beyond the traditionally-perceived limits of classical music. The ensemble’s artistic, educational, and civic programs engage theater groups, video game designers, corporate innovators, and folk bands to share stories as diverse as the communities it serves.

As part of its 2017-2018 season, Fifth House Ensemble presents a bold new collaboration called Degenerate Art, examining censored and suppressed music of the past along with recorded interviews and an exploration of contemporary graffiti art that challenges authority today. New collaborations with 2015 Grammy-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux and graphic artist Angela Bermúdez explore musical styles unique to American culture, as well as global folk sources that lie far off the beaten path from the typical classical concert. fresh inc all stars features works by composition alumni of the annual fresh inc festival; young composers who are making an impact with fresh new work. 

Also this season, Fifth House visits the University of Texas at Austin and Kenyon College (Gambier, OH) with Journey LIVE, an interactive arrangement for Fifth House of Austin Wintory’s Grammy-nominated score responsive to live game play, and visits The Driehaus Museum, the Eastman School of Music, LiveConnections at World Cafe Live, Ravinia, and the Cleveland Institute of Music for performances, training workshops, and residency activities this season.

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

Through the ensemble’s heartfelt social and civic practice work, Fifth House 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. 

Reaching 17,000 students annually through its arts-integrated educational programs, Fifth House connects K-12 core curricula to vivid, custom-crafted, and interactive musical experiences which challenge students to share and lead. A member of the Illinois Arts Council’s Arts-in-Education Roster, Fifth House 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. 

As an extension of this work, Fifth House enters its third 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 partners with Storycatchers Theatre as part of its residency at the detention center to develop new curriculum culminating in a new theatrical work based on participants’ own experiences.

An established partner and resource to the nation’s top music schools and conservatories, Fifth House launches the careers of emerging artists through entrepreneurship residencies and training programs, including those at Yale College, Eastman School of Music, New England Conservatory, Indiana University, Northwestern University, DePaul University, and the Colburn School. Fifth House continues its creative partnerships with The Cleveland Institute of Music and The Cleveland Orchestra this season, and begins new initiatives with Roosevelt University and The Civic Orchestra of Chicago. In 2012, Fifth House launched fresh inc, a two-week, intensive training program for emerging composers and performers where Fifth House works with participants on building careers in music in line with their own unique, vision and values.

Fifth House 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


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