CIM's orchestras are some of the Institute’s finest ensembles. There are three types of orchestras to which all CIM Orchestra students will be assigned throughout their degree program:
- CIM Orchestra, which performs in Kulas Hall and Severance Hall, home of The Cleveland Orchestra
- CIM Chamber Orchestra, which performs in Mixon Hall
- CIM Opera Orchestra, which performs as part of two fully-staged productions per year
Unlike many other conservatories, all orchestra students, regardless of class or degree, are assigned together to concerts—and there are no "upper" or "lower" orchestras. Assignments are done on a per-concert basis and principals change for each concert.
The CIM Orchestra is directed by Carl Topilow, who also brings in guest conductors each year who conduct some of the best orchestras in the world. Most concerts include a concerto, often performed by the winners of CIM’s Concerto Competition or by a faculty soloist. Students receive coaching and instruction from faculty members of The Cleveland Orchestra (TCO) in sectionals throughout the year and TCO members occasionally sit in or attend rehearsals.