by John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune. June 7, 2016.
Gary Stucka, from left, cello, Michael Henoch, oboe, James Smelser, french horn, Steve Lester, bass, Susan Synnestvedt, violin and Scott Hostetler, oboe, will be among the Chicago Symphony Musicians playing a benefit for the Greater Chicago Food Depository at the Studebaker Theater on June 13. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)
In recent years, and without much fanfare, U.S. symphony orchestra musicians have taken steps to expand their role as agents of social and cultural service in their communities, in ways that push beyond their normal contractual obligations to the institutions for which they work.
This typically has meant making music as members of independent not-for-profit organizations that take on outreach and/or fundraising initiatives that normally would fall outside the purview of their parent institutions.
• Last June, the musicians of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra gave a benefit concert to raise money for Dallas Court Appointed Special Advocates, a local nonprofit group of volunteers who advocate in court for children in foster care.
• In 2014, San Francisco Symphony musicians performed a concert to raise funds for the SF-Marin Food Bank, one of the Bay Area's most prominent charities.
• Players from the Minnesota Orchestra gave several self-produced concerts during the corrosive, 15-month lockout that ended with a new contact settlement in January 2014.
Now, the members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are taking their music beyond Orchestra Hall to raise money on behalf of one of the city's most important social service organizations.
For their inaugural concert as the Chicago Symphony Musicians, the players will present a special concert to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository, June 13 at the historic Studebaker Theater in the Fine Arts Building on south Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago.
CSO music director Riccardo Muti will conduct Beethoven's iconic Fifth Symphony, and CSO principal clarinet Stephen Williamson will be the soloist in the Mozart Clarinet Concerto. Everyone, including Muti, the musicians and the stage technicians, will be donating his and her services.
Tickets for the event are $100-$250 and are being sold at the venue's website, www.studebakertheater.com All proceeds will go to the food depository, a nonprofit, founded in 1979, that provides food for more than 800,000 individuals across Cook County and works to end hunger through a network of 650 pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and programs for children and adults. Last year, the organization distributed 68 million pounds of shelf-stable food, fresh produce, dairy products and meat, amounting to 155,000 meals per day, according to its website.
As board president of the Chicago Symphony Musicians (founded last summer) and one of the main organizers of the event, Michael Henoch, the CSO's assistant principal oboe, praised the "fabulous work" of the food depository as ample reason for the Chicago Symphony Musicians' broaching the idea of a benefit concert with depository officials. "They were initially very surprised but very grateful," he said.
The project is perfectly in keeping with similar concerts and outreach events Muti — a tireless advocate for music's humanitarian and spiritual role in bettering society and the lives of its citizens — has led in Chicago and key areas around the world.
"The maestro has been enthusiastically on board with this from the start," Henoch said. "When we announced the event at a press conference at the food depository in April, he toured the facility and was very impressed with what they are doing to help people who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. He spoke of the importance of artists feeding the bodies as well as souls of people, and how we musicians can use our talents and the power of music to achieve further goals in the community."
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