Young Artist Competition, CSO-Connect, International Women’s Day: Reflecting on February 27 – March 12, 2018

Late February and early March proved to be one of the busiest times of the season for the Civic Fellows. After months of hard work memorizing, scripting, and choreographing (yes, you read that right!) our CSO-Connect presentation, we performed it for Chicago Public Schools all throughout the city. Every morning that week at 9:30am, we came with the goal of connecting with the elementary and middle school students.

My favorite portion of our hour-long performance is an activity Midori leads before we perform Smetana’s Moldau. She asks the audience to compose a piece about water. She asks what raindrops, rivers, and a castle should sound like- the students choose instruments that best represent these subjects, and direct us how we should play to effectively mimic them. It never once failed to make us laugh when students disliked what we played in this composition exercise! What I love most about our show is the students’ willingness to be open, engaged, and voice their opinions — we found many creative and insightful voices throughout each classroom, and the students’ eager participation and positive energy made performing a joy.


ABOVE: The Civic Fellows perform their CSO-Connect presentation to students at Pickard Elementary School. | © Todd Rosenberg Photography, 2018

Simultaneously happening to our Connect performances, Erina Yashima, the CSO’s Solti Conducting Apprentice, led Civic Orchestra evening rehearsals for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Young Artist Competition.

The CSO’s Young Artists Competition  finalists played onstage in Orchestra Hall, accompanied by the Civic Orchestra. (LtoR) winner Yerin Yang, 15; Eriko Darcy, 16;  Joshua Mhoon, 14; runner-up Colin Choi, 16 | © Anne Ryan Photography (2018)

We accompanied four incredibly talented pianists on Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2, Grieg’s Piano Concerto, and Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 3. It was a pleasure to watch these young musicians perform with such soul and infectiously vibrant energy.

March 8th was International Women’s Day! Midori opened her home to hold a house concert- there were eager listeners, wine, a curious cat named Bear, lots of smiles, and nine performances of music and poetry written by Women. The Fellows Woodwind Quintet closed the evening with Haitian Folk Tale by Lina Mathon Blanchet, complete with improvised bongos!  The evening’s program served as a reminder to the importance of diversity in classical music, as well as a challenge for other musical organizations to represent female composers in the classical music canon.


ABOVE: The Civic Fellows and friends gather on International Women’s Day 2018 and perform works written by female composers.

The following week, Alice, Carmen, Roslyn, Denielle, and I had the absolute pleasure of working with songwriting wizards Sara Lee and Rex Horan of the London-based Irene Taylor Trust Music in Prisons. The time we spent with them prepared us for working with participants in an incredible program called Purpose Over Pain. Based out of St. Sabina Church in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood, we worked with mothers and family members whose children were taken by gun violence. It was a privilege to hear these women share their stories and honor their children through music. I was humbled by their openness, strength, and love. Stay tuned to read more about the incredible work with Purpose Over Pain…

By Civic Fellow and flute Christy Kim

TOP: Civic Fellow Christy Kim warms-up before a CSO-Connect performance at Pickard Elementary School. | © Todd Rosenberg Photography, 2018