Costumes, Communities, and Banquets: Reflecting on October 23 – November 5, 2018.

On Tuesday, October 23, the Civic Orchestra performed Mahler’s Symphony No.6 and Ogonek’s All These Lighted Things – that latter of which was commissioned and world-premiered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra last season. Out concert was under the direction of CSO Solti Conducting Apprentice Erina Yashima.  This was our last concert with Erina during her apprenticeship; she has been with working with the Civic Orchestra for more than two years.  However, this was the first time I had a chance to play celesta under her baton. She has also been helpful in prepping us before the guest conductor arrives in some of the concerts this past season.

During these two weeks, we all started writing drafts for our group project proposals. Fellows were separated into three different groups: West Side, South Side and North Side.  Each group brainstormed ideas to work music into social issues. Thanks to our generous sponsor the Robert and Isabelle Bass Foundation, each group will have the opportunity to apply for a grant of up to $2,000.  So far, the South Side group plans to create a ‘storybook’ of original works and perform at several local venues.  The West Side group will team up with a local school to premiere a piece by a local African-American composer to celebrate Black History Month.  The group will also arrange bus transportation for the high school students to come to our Civic Orchestra concerts. The North Side group will collaborate with a senior services organization to incorporate live music in to a memory care facility.  We all hope, with this short-term 3-month project, we can bring a long-lasting influence to the people of these communities. Stay tuned for more details!

On Monday, October 29, we had our annual Civic Scholars Donor Dinner.  The event started with a cocktail hour on the eighth floor, in Symphony Center’s Thomas Club.  Most of the Civic Orchestra musicians were paired with a specific donor or foundation.  My donors are Mr. and Mrs. Robert Baum and Mary Beth Kretz.  Unfortunately, due to the distance where they reside, I only had a brief chance to meet with Mr. Baum in the Symphony Center during last season.  After the cocktail hour, we moved to the beautiful Grainger Ballroom for a seated, festive dinner with our sponsors.  Linda Wolfe, the great-granddaughter of the founder of Civic Orchestra conductor and the CSO’s second Music director, Frederick Stock, sat right across the table from me. Algimantas Kezelis, a lawyer and a first-time Civic sponsor, along with our Civic Fellow Joe Bauer’s parents (also sponsors), were at the same table with me.  After the wonderful dinner, fellow Roslyn Green gave a wonderful speech thanking all of our donors.  We then listened to our fellows play selections from Schubert’s Octet.

As Halloween approached, our fellows Roslyn Green and Alice Park organized a fun evening visit to Margaret’s Village, a homeless shelter for single moms and their children.  We wore Halloween costumes and set up a few tables where the kids could come ring the doorbell for trick or treat-ing while we played some short Halloween tunes.  While we were preparing, some of the kids tried out the costumes and danced to the music during our performances.  It was such a heartwarming event.

These past two weeks, the Civic Fellows had the opportunity to dine with our generous sponsors while also meeting with people in need.  We performed on the prestigious Orchestra Hall stage as well as in a simple auditorium in a South Side neighborhood.  It was a truly memorable two weeks in our lives.

By Civic Fellow and pianist Pei-yeh Tsai

TOP: A chamber ensemble comprised of Civic Fellows perform select movements from Schubert’s Octet. | Photo by Todd Rosenberg