Our 70th anniversary season has officially come to an end. From high-profile performances, exciting collaborations, new leadership, and more, it’s definitely been a year to remember.
This season CYSO expanded our programs to include two new on-site ensembles: Philharmonic Orchestra, an advanced ensemble for primarily high school students, and the new high school-level Jazz Orchestra. Longtime Associate Conductor Terrance Malone Gray was tapped to lead the new Philharmonic Orchestra, and two new artistic staff took over the ensembles previously led by Maestro Gray: Dana Green, Debut Orchestra Conductor, and Michael Mascari, Concert Orchestra Conductor. Pharez Whitted joined CYSO to direct the new Jazz Orchestra as well. In addition to the new Artistic staff members, CYSO’s new Executive Director Susan Lape joined us in March, and longtime Director of Operations Brian Baxter was promoted to Chief Operating Officer in the spring.
We kicked off a season of exciting performances and world premieres with the opening night of Chicago’s inaugural Ear Taxi Festival in October where Symphony Orchestra presented the world premiere of Eric Malmquist’s Prairie Music. In November, Philharmonic Orchestra premiered composer-in-residence Jonathan Newman’s Meridian in honor of their first concert. Also in November, Symphony Orchestra presented their fall performance at Orchestra Hall, and in December performed for music professionals from around the region at Midwest Clinic along with guest soloist Rachel Barton Pine. In January, Jazz Orchestra’s inaugural concert sold out Chicago’s legendary Jazz Showcase. And percussionist and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche joined the Symphony Orchestra spring Orchestra Hall concert for the world premiere of his concerto Infinite Tree.
Along with big concerts, two fundraising events brought hundreds of donors and friends out in support of CYSO. Our 70th Anniversary Celebration gala took place in February, thrilling attendees with a tribute to the music of James Bond and breaking previous gala fundraising records. And to close the season, the first CYSO Beer Benefit was held at Lagunitas Brewery.
Throughout the year, we continued to collaborate with renowned guest artists in new and exciting ways, including Rachel Barton Pine, and composers-in-residence Jonathan Newman and Glenn Kotche. Our Double Double Workshop for young double reed and double bass players brought in instructors and professional musicians from around the region to work with students. We also explored a collaboration combining painting in virtual reality with a live performance from Symphony Orchestra string students, made possible through a partnership with digital agency Isobar.
CYSO Community Engagement Programs continued to expand this season, engaging students in increasing meaningful and innovative ways. Our new Neighborhood Steel Ensembles brought steelpan programming directly to students in Humboldt Park and Hermosa, two underserved Chicago neighborhoods. We also continued our partnership with The People’s Music School, creating pathways to increase membership of TPMS students in CYSO ensembles, as well as presenting masterclasses at TPMS presented by CYSO Music Director Allen Tinkham and Director of String Ensembles Daniella Valdez. In addition, we continued our efforts to reach CPS students, including a side-by-side joint concert with ChiArts orchestra, and, in partnership with the International Music Foundation and Foundations of Music, two Education Concerts performed for CPS third graders by Concert Orchestra and Philharmonic Orchestra.
Finally, our 70th anniversary season culminated with Symphony Orchestra’s tour of Central Europe in June. Kicking off with a farewell performance at Millenium Park, the orchestra embarked on a 10-day visit to Belgrade, Serbia, Budapest, Hungary, and Prague, Czechia, performing at world-class venues and experiencing the sights and sounds of these historic cities.
It’s been a season seven decades in the making, and we can’t wait to do it again in our upcoming 71st year!