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Linda Keller Celebrates 55 Years With the ESO 

Linda Keller Celebrates 55 Years With the ESO 

Although her family wasn’t musical, Linda Keller fell in love with marching bands as a little kid in Peoria. She realized she’d have to learn play an instrument to march in a band, but that was merely the means to her dream: To march! In a band!

Fifth grade was the year to choose an instrument, and Linda wanted to play the flute. “Sorry,” she was told. “Too many flutes at the moment – but we need clarinets…” And that was that. Linda took clarinet lessons all the way through high school, the sum total of her formal musical training, and marched in her beloved school band.

Linda’s love of bands also had an influence on her college choice. She watched tapes of the various college bands and decided that University of Michigan had the best. So, she applied, was accepted, and arrived in Ann Arbor all ready to try out for the marching band only to discover that in those pre-Title IX days only men actually marched in the band. Women could practice and play with the band but not march. Linda was extremely disappointed but played in the band anyway during her four years at Michigan, graduating with a degree in business.

After college, Linda moved to the Chicago area for work and started dating a trombonist who played in the ESO. He told her there was an opening in the clarinet section – and she’s still there! She was principal clarinetist for 35 years but decided that was long enough and asked to be moved to second chair when Maestro Eckerling became music director. (As for the trombonist, he soon went off to Phoenix to join a professional orchestra, and Linda met and married her husband, Tom Keller.)

Linda says that one advantage of her 55 years in the ESO is that she has been able to witness and be part of so much of its history since 1964. She is very aware of the hard work it takes to keep a community orchestra together and make it work, and added that the ESO is especially fortunate to have truly committed non-musicians as volunteers. While she enjoyed playing under the baton of Frank Miller, legendary principal cellist of the Chicago Symphony, she thinks that the orchestra is at an even higher artistic level now because of Maestro Eckerling’s way of working with the musicians. A professional musician can be told merely to “practice more,” but dedicated non-professionals like many of the talented musicians in the ESO sometimes need more specific guidance on a particular passage or musical phrase, something that Larry provides very well – and it shows in the ESO’s performances.

Thank you, Linda, for your 55 years of wonderful music with the ESO!

And now, Linda's questionnaire

What is or was your day job? I worked part-time in the Human Resources department of a small pharmaceutical firm in Northbrook. I enjoyed the work, but like being retired!

What is your most memorable performance with the ESO? Ralph Wilder playing Calandrelli’s Concerto for Jazz Clarinet and Orchestra! [May 13, 2007]. Ralph wowed both audience and orchestra! I couldn’t believe the magic coming out of his fingers! All that wonderful stuff! I almost fell off my chair!

What are you most pleased to have accomplished during the time you have been staying at home? Crossword puzzles and needlework projects resurrected! Taxes in on time (April) for a change. Compiled health histories for myself and husband, Tom.

Linda Keller

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