Happy New Year! As we settle in to 2022, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the eventful year that CYSO had in 2021. This past year was not an easy one. As we entered 2021 still in the midst of the pandemic and with concert venues around the city shuttered, the future seemed uncertain. Despite all of this, CYSO’s young musicians remained as enthusiastic and passionate as ever about music-making.
We spent much of 2021 slowly ramping back up our in-person programming as more and more people were vaccinated, while still providing virtual programming online. Hybrid in-person and online rehearsals took place through the spring with virtual concerts to celebrate the winter and spring season.
In addition to regular programming, 2021 also included a number of high profile moments for CYSO musicians, including our late-night TV debut and appearing before millions on cable TV, the release of an award-winning album, outdoor performances, virtual performances, and more. Read to reminisce about seven moments from 2021 that we’ll never forget!
CYSO Makes Late-Night Debut on Stephen Colbert
In January 2021, nine CYSO musicians were invited to join in a performance by Chicago producer Peter CottonTale on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The special inauguration night show included CottonTale’s song “Together,” featuring Chance the Rapper, Broadway and film star Cynthia Erivo, and and all-Black ensemble of CYSO musicians and singers from Chicago Children’s Choir. Read more and watch the full performance online.
Gershwin’s Magic Key Album Wins Awards
February saw the release of Classical Kids Live!’s new album, Gershwin’s Magic Key, featuring performances from CYSO’s Symphony Orchestra. The album tells the story of a newspaper boy who has a chance encounter with the famous composer, exploring Gershwin’s iconic works along the way. Recorded in February 2020 shortly before the pandemic began, the album was met with awards and accolades, including being short-listed for GRAMMY consideration. Read more about Gershwin’s Magic Key here.
Record-Breaking Virtual Gala
Each spring, the our community gathers for CYSO’s largest fundraiser of the year: our annual Gala. In March 2021, we gathered a little differently—thousands of CYSO supporters tuned in online for our first ever Virtual Gala: Sounds Across Chicago. Celebrating the sounds and stories of our young musicians, the evening featured videos recorded across the city at some of Chicago’s most iconic locations including the Field Museum, Union Station, the Fine Arts Building, and even our students’ own neighborhoods! We laughed, we cheered, and some of us may have even shed a few tears watching students perform together for the first time in months. And because of the generosity of our amazing community, the Gala broke records in both viewership, with more than 3,000 people tuning in to date, and fundraising, with more than $370,000 raised. Thank you to everyone who tuned in, gave a gift, and helped spread the word! Watch videos from the event.
CYSO Musicians Take Over Navy Pier
Fast forward a few months to May when, at long last, CYSO students were finally able to gather to perform together after a year and a half wait. We took over Navy Pier with more than 600 musicians performing over the course of the week in 23 separate open rehearsals. Cheered on by enthusiastic crowds of parents, friends, and new fans, it was the perfect way to celebrate the end of the 2020-2021 season. Relive this long-awaited performance weekend.
CNN Fourth of July Reprise
July brought a special opportunity for CYSO: a performance on CNN’s Fourth of July special! For the second year in a row, members of Symphony Orchestra played for a crowd of millions on the nationally-broadcast special. Against the backdrop of fireworks shows from St. Louis and Nashville, Symphony Orchestra students virtually performed John William’s heroic “Superman March.” Watch the performance here.
CYSO Unveils Vibrant New Mural Inspired by Students
As students returned to in-person rehearsals in fall 2021, we were thrilled to debut a major upgrade to our space—a colorful new mural in the entryway of our 833 rehearsal space. The design celebrates the thousands of young musicians who have come through those doors over the course of CYSO’s 75 year history. Chicago artist Javier Suárez and a small team of assistants combed through more than 150 photos submitted by CYSO students and alumni, using them as reference for the characters who made up the final design. Look closely—maybe you’ll recognize someone you know! Read more about the process of creating and installin the new mural.
Triumphant Return to Orchestra Hall
More recently, CYSO musicians made a triumphant return to the Orchestra Hall stage for Symphony Orchestra’s November concert. After two years away, expectations were high for the performance and students did not disappoint. As noted in Third Coast Review, students played “well beyond their years and reviewer Bob Benenson wrote that “had you sat and just listened Sunday, you likely would have had the impression of older and more experienced players—only to be stunned in the post-concert corridors by how fresh-faced these tuxedo- and gown-clad musicians are. “
The program included works by Barber, Tchaikovsky, and more, as well as the highlight of the night, the Midwest premier of composer Vivian Fung’s new trumpet concerto performed by CYSO alum, Mary Elizabeth Bowden, ‘00. Two student concertos were also featured, performed by CYSO Concerto Competition winners Bianca Ciubancan and Louis Auxenfans. Read more about this extraordinary evening of music.
We would like to thank our students, families, staff, and supporters for their resilience and determination over the past year. Here’s to a 2022 full of more wonderful music!