First Notes and New Perspectives: Reflecting on October 12-22, 2019

As pictures of apple picking and pumpkin carving clogged the internet, signifying that October was in full swing, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago welcomed its newly appointed principal conductor, Ken-David Masur, to the podium. Under the direction of Masur, the Orchestra performed two stellar concerts that featured works by Britten, Grime, and Mendelssohn. The first concert occurred at historic South Shore Cultural Center, marking the 12th consecutive season of Civic Orchestra performances at the venue, and the second concert was performed at Symphony Center’s Orchestra Hall – marking the 101st season of Civic concerts on the mainstage. Masur set a friendly tone by starting the first rehearsal with a warm smile and asking everyone to address him as Ken, not Maestro. Collaboration and teamwork, in conjunction with a high caliber of musicianship and professionalism, set the stage for an exciting season of compelling music making.

Following a well-deserved, post-concert recovery day, the fellows convened back at Symphony Center for a day long workshop focused on systemic racism, presented by Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism (CROAR). To say that the workshop was enlightening and impactful would be an understatement. While many issues were raised, deconstructed, and clarified, the accessibility and presentation of classical music were two of the most important topics. From stuffy traditions, unwelcoming spaces, and elitist attitudes, the reality that white supremacy not only has a hold on the world around us but also the field of classical music set a fire under the fellows to engage with their work through a different lense – and strive to break down the social norms and expectations that exclude so many. We, the fellows, understood the importance of the workshop and hope for it to be an annual workshop for years to come.

On a lighter note, the champion and biggest supporter of the fellowship program, Lori Julian, hosted a warm and welcoming fundraising event for donors to meet Ken-David Masur. At the event, a fellows chamber group performed the Martinů Piano Quintet no. 2 for the evening’s entertainment.

A successful first concert led by Ken-David Masur, an impactful workshop on systemic racism awareness, and some delightful donor cultivation have made for a wonderful and well-rounded start for a Civic Orchestra Fellowship season — full of great artistic and social impact.

By second year Civic Fellow and violin John Heffernan

TOP: TOP: Civic Orchestra Principal Conductor Ken-David Masur cues the low strings during a performance of Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony. | Photo by Todd Rosenberg, 2019