Let the 2015/16 Season Begin

The beginning of the 2015/2016 season has already been busy for the Fellows—we’ve performed new music at the Ravenswood Art Walk, played for a VIP reception (including Mayor Rahm Emanuel!) at the Zhou B Art Center, and, of course, with the full orchestra, had our first open rehearsal with Maestro Muti and our concert with Maestro Semyon Bychkov.

This season has also brought some major changes to the Fellowship and the blog. For one thing, you may have noticed we’re now being hosted on the CSO’s Sounds and Stories page. We’re thrilled to be integrated more completely into the CSO family! Check us out on Sounds and Stories.

Incidentally, our name was another change. Over the summer, the decision was made to move away from the Citizen Musician label, with the hope that our new name would be a clearer representation of who we are and what we do. We’re the Civic Fellows now, but our goals—increasing music’s role in society and bringing music to people and communities who don’t have access to it—have remained the same.

Two of our number left at the end of last season, both on to great opportunities elsewhere. Anna Scheider moved to Los Angeles to pursue a Professional Studies Certificate at the Colburn School. Steven Chang left us to join the New World Symphony in Miami, another high-level training orchestra that attracts many Civic alumni. With the training they’re getting, both of them will probably win big-time orchestral jobs any day now! We’ll miss them, but I bet neither of them will miss the Chicago winters.

Although we were sad to see Steven and Anna go, their absence meant we had the opportunity to add two new Fellows to our ranks. We put out a call to all current, first-year Civic members, and the response was overwhelming. After a rigorous interview process, two new members of the Civic Fellows family were selected: Melanie Erena, horn; and Sam Petrey, violin. Welcome, Melanie and Sam!

Melanie Erena, horn

11/20/14 1:42:27 PM -- Civic Orchestra of Chicago Portraits Melanie Erena . © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2014

Years in Chicago?

Important musical experience?
The first time I was called to play with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was truly remarkable. In many ways, I learned more by sitting in the CSO horn section for one week than in all of my years of education combined. The details of my experience could fill a book! It was incredibly surreal and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity.

Favorite composer or piece of music?
Bach – simultaneously mathematical and mellifluous.
Beethoven – timeless and revolutionary.
Brahms – sheer warmth and beauty.

Favorite Chicago neighborhood or favorite Chicago hang?
Andersonville/Ravenswood! As a new resident to the area, I am currently eating my way down N. Clark St.

Favorite audience experience was…
Any performance given by my teacher, mentor, and musical heroine, Gail Williams.

What are the benefits of collaborating with other organizations?
Collaboration is a fantastic cycle: the formation of new relationships engenders heightened creativity, which strengthens relationships, which results in even more fresh ideas…plus, when collaboration occurs, core audiences mesh together and new audience members are reached. Collaboration truly pushes art to its peak and draws people together.

If you could collaborate as a musician with any other organization, who would it be?
I am currently very into the music of singer/songwriter/virtuoso mandolinist Chris Thile. Chris, if you are reading this, I am available for your next album – let’s talk!

If you could get any fashion store to sponsor the Civic’s makeover concert attire, who would it be?
Easy – Target: affordable yet chic. Plus, have you SEEN their lineup of recent designers? Now that is a collaboration worth exploring!

Where is a unique location in Chicago where you wish you could play a concert or recital?
As a horn player, I will admit that every time I visit the Art Institute, I fantasize about filling its large, resonant rooms with majestic brass music.

If I were not a musician, I would be…
A teacher, chef, writer, psychologist, or yoga instructor.

One thing that I love about being a musician is…
The doors that it opens to explore the world (because of my involvement in music, I have traveled to eleven countries in recent years!) and therefore, experience different cultures and meet all types of interesting people.

My favorite conductor that I have played for is…
Playing under the baton of legendary Maestros Riccardo Muti and Charles Dutoit last year – both unforgettable experiences.

Sam Petrey, violin

11/20/14 1:57:19 PM -- Civic Orchestra of Chicago Portraits Sam Petrey . © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2014

Years in Chicago?
I did my undergrad in Chicago, spent two years in San Francisco and promptly moved back to Chicago. So about 10 years.

Important musical experience?
The first time I ever heard Shostakovich’s 5th symphony was when I was a freshman in high school and I rehearsed it at Tanglewood. I had never played anything composed by him before and hearing that kind of emotion in music was something I had not yet discovered. It was incredible.

Favorite composer or piece of music?
Beethoven or Tchaikovsky. As musicians it is easy for us to forget or to take for granted that Beethoven was deaf. It’s unbelievable how much his music captures the human spirit. Tchaikovsky is so much fun to play. I had a friend in school who was majoring in composition and loved to pretend-quote Tchaikovsky: “I’m glad you liked that melody! Here’s a thousand more, each one better than the last. Oh, I also wrote the melody that will represent love for the next couple of hundred years.”

Favorite Chicago neighborhood or favorite Chicago hang?
This has changed over the years I’ve lived in Chicago. I currently live in North Center, which has absolutely fantastic food. Being a Blue Demon, however, I have to give some love to Kelly’s Pub near DePaul.

Favorite audience experience was…
The Bach marathon last year at Christkindlmarket.

What are the benefits for collaborating with other organizations?
The specific benefits depend on the organization. However, any collaboration is beneficial as it allows for a wider audience and therefor a better chance for us to positively impact someone’s life with music, while benefiting the mission or clientele of the other organization.

Where is a unique location in Chicago where you wish you could play a concert or recital?
I wish we got to play more down by Chicago’s amazing riverfront. I think it would be great to get on the deck of a riverboat and hook up a sound system and play for as many people as possible!

If I were not a musician, I would be…
A chef!

By Erin Rafferty.

Photos by Todd Rosenberg ©.