BUILD, LAO, and Yo-Yo: Reflecting on June 5 – 20, 2018.

As our season ends, I want to begin by acknowledging my colleague and dedicated bassoon fellow, Midori Samson. In the month of June, Midori worked on the West Side group project at BUILD as well as her own independent project that culminated in a solo bassoon recital on June 5. The recital featured eight newly commissioned works by composers from the continent of Africa. The project set out to broaden and diversify the standard repertoire for bassoon and increase the representation of nonwhite musicians in the classical music world. Even as I write this article, my bassoon-champion, globetrotter friend is doing what she does like no one else and working with students in Haiti with the Trade Winds Ensemble! Our work as classical musicians whom advocate making our society better is as important and necessary as ever before. Being a spark for social change is what it means to be a forward-thinking musician in 2018, so I urge everyone to check out her work with Trade Winds as a blueprint for success!

On June 6, Civic Fellow and cellist Nicky Swett presented his independent project, Music in Translation. The recital was an exploration of the relationship between music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and music of the more distant past. Alongside works of J.S. Bach, György Ligeti, George Crumb, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Kenneth Lim, this program featured a host of musical ‘translations’ that bridged the gaps between all of these musical styles. Piano fellow Pei and soprano Bahareh Poureslami joined Nicky for an evening of incredible music making. One listener described it as a “musical journey to The Upside Down.”

Civic Fellow Nicky Swett demonstrates a Bach “translation” during his June Independent Project recital.

As mentioned earlier, the fellows’ West Side group had their final performance with BUILD on June 7. From the audience, I could see only smiles all across the room. In this project, all of the skills we had acquired during the fellowship were put to use… Fellows Joe, Carmen, Pei, and Midori could be seen improvising on their instruments and accompanying children rapping and singing. Also during the event, the fellows guided the audience through a wonderful conversation about music. We felt very warmly welcomed at BUILD, an organization making great strides in violence prevention throughout the city.

Also occurring on June 7, a separate group of fellows participated in the Strides for Peace fifth annual Race Against Gun Violence. At its core, this event exists to raise monies to support anti-gun violence organizations. This year, the CSOA supported St. Sabina’s outreach programs, specifically Strong Futures and Purpose Over Pain, the latter of which is a new program partner of the Institute, which has brought songwriting to St. Sabina Church for parents who have lost children to gun violence. The participants in the program have written songs of tribute. One of these songs, Peace and Love Coby, was performed on stage before the start of the race.

Civic Fellows performed “Peace and Love, Coby” to open the impactful Race Against Gun Violence.

In Buntrock Hall on June 9, Carmen and Pei gave the last shared recital of the fellows’ season and it was fantastic. Carmen played Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 and Vivaldi’s Concerto No. 1 (“Spring”), with accompaniment from other Civic Fellows. Pei played Michele Caniato’s Fleeting as well as the first two movements of Carl Vine’s Piano Sonata No. 1.

On June 10, Yo-Yo Ma, musicians from the CSO, Civic Orchestra, Chicago Children’s Choir and The Faith Community of Saint Sabina Band came together for an inspiring afternoon of music at the CSOA’s second Concert for Peace. The concert also featured songs composed by family members in St. Sabina’s Purpose Over Pain program, which strives to promote healing for families who have been victims of violence. It was a meaningful event that many Civic Fellows have been involved in since early March.

ABOVE: Yo-Yo Ma, CSO and Civic Musicians, and Erina Yashima at the June 10 Concert for Peace at St. Sabina Church in the city’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. | Photos by Todd Rosenberg Photography.

The concert also marked the debut of, a website devoted to raising awareness about violence in Chicago. Working with our dear friends at Purpose Over Pain this past season and a volunteer team of web developers, we have learned how important and moving the individual stories of victims can be in adjusting the narrative of this terrible epidemic. Visit the link above to listen to family members’ original songs, performed by Civic Fellows and musicians and guest vocalists, recorded in tribute to their slain loved ones.

Then, on June 11, the fellows caught a moment to reflect and celebrate all of our hard work with a night in Chinatown eating hot pot! Following dinner was a night of karaoke night that could only be described as magical.

We performed our CSO-Connect presentation for the last time on June 12 for the League of American Orchestras Conference, which was hosted by the CSO this year. It was a bidding adieu to our lovely arrangement; the fellows gathered for the first time eight months ago to sight-read the Connect piece and now, after so many months of practice and performance, many of us would part ways only a day later.

Civic Fellows performed, for the final time this season, their CSO-Connect presentation at the opening day of the League of American Orchestras National Conference.

The last event of the season occurred on June 13, when Judson and Joyce Green hosted a Civic Orchestra Chamber Party at the beautiful Chicago Club. The evening included profound discussions with Yo-Yo Ma, myriad chamber performances alongside CSO musicians, and lavish food and beverages courtesy of the Greens. It was the perfect setting to wrap-up our season and say many a tearful goodbye.

ABOVE: Yo-Yo Ma, CSO and Civic musicians took part in a chamber party at the Chicago Club, hosted by Judson and Joyce Green.

I am honored to have been a part of the Civic Orchestra and Fellowship. And to my friends in the fellowship, and the incredible Civic staff, please know that you mean the world to me. For those who follow the blog, thank you for tuning-in…and get excited for the upcoming Civic Centennial season!

By Civic Fellow and trumpet Alex Schwarz

TOP | Some Civic Fellows and staff pose before an end-of-season celebratory dinner at Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot in Chinatown (Chicago).