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Community Engagement Initiatives
The Evanston Symphony Orchestra has a clear mission — to provide quality, diverse, enjoyable and accessible classical musical entertainment that enriches the audience, orchestra and community. We are proud to be Evanston’s Community Orchestra and develop special initiatives to engage new and different members of our community through music.
Concert accessibility — removing barriers:
- We perform our concerts at Pick-Staiger and Evanston Township High School that are both ADA accessible halls with dedicated spaces for wheelchairs.
- We perform a free outdoor pops concert each summer at the Wallace Bowl in Gillson Park, Wilmette.
- We give seniors discounts on subscriptions and single tickets for our concert series.
- Children 12 and under are admitted free to our concert series.
- We have discounted family packages to our Holiday Concert.
- Our Young Persons’ concert is free and offers middle-school students an opportunity to perform side-by-side with ESO musicians.
- We provide KidNotes our special concert program for children, at all our series concerts to keep our young concert attendees engaged with age-appropriate information about the music and musicians, plus jokes and pencil puzzles. Download a sample issue of KidNotes (PDF) and see for yourself!
- Music lovers can "check out" a limited number of tickets for all our series concerts at the Evanston Public Library for free.
- We offer large print program notes at all concerts.
- We arrange group seating to enable seniors from retirement communities and any group purchasing a block of tickets to sit together.
Taking music into the community:
We present Musical Insights, our free pre-concert lecture recitals, on Friday afternoons before each of the concerts in our subscription series. These special hour-long programs are held in the Crystal Ballroom of The Merion in downtown Evanston. Free refreshments are provided. Composers come alive and their passions take center stage when ESO's Maestro Lawrence Eckerling takes you on an insider’s tour of the history and highlights behind the music. Often our concert soloists make special appearances and perform short recitals made especially for these occasions, and attendees get the opportunity to meet them in person!
Showcasing music from our community:
At our Holiday concert, we share the joy of celebrating the season together through music. At this 18-year community tradition, we present a delightful seasonal concert showcasing holiday music from many genres and cultures. The North Shore Choral Society, Chicago Ballet Arts, Evanston Children’s Choir, Evanston Dance Ensemble, The Choir from Evanston Township High School, and our very own gospel choir all join the full Evanston Symphony Orchestra in this special afternoon of music.
Reaching tweens and pre-schoolers:
The Evanston Symphony Orchestra is committed to nurturing and developing the musicians and audience of the future through two specific initiatives.
Young Persons’ concert. The ESO teams up with School District 65 middle school orchestra teachers to present a very special Young Persons’ concert that's free to all. In the grand finale of this one hour family-friendly concert, 120 members of the middle school orchestras join the Evanston Symphony Orchestra musicians on stage and play side by side. This special performance experience encourages young musicians, particularly low-income and students of color, to continue their orchestral music studies in middle school and on into high school. This concert also raises money for an Instrument Rental and Repair Fund so D65 orchestra teachers can provide instruments for students whose families lack the means to afford them. The ESO wants to put instruments in the hands of all students who want to play.
Music In Your World. For more than 20 years, the ESO has been bringing free music education classes to District 65’s Head Start and Pre-K programs, reaching 400 vulnerable pre-schoolers, including special needs students. We work with School District 65 in two different program in the Joseph E Hill Building.
Head Start and Pre-K:
Our wonderful music educator, Charles Taylor, teaches around 300 children across the school year to sing songs, dance to music, and learn important concepts using music vocabulary, like forte and piano. Music In Your World is part of the Cradle to Career initiative designed to ensure that all children are kindergarten ready, using the ‘Talk, Read, Sing’ language development program. The ESO also provides monthly evening parent enrichment sessions where parents sing and dance together with their pre-schoolers, using the power of music to strengthen family bonds and enrich their lives.
Early Head Start and Early Start:
In 2019, ESO was invited to extend this program to the students in Early Head Start and the families in the Early Start program, bringing music into the lives of families with children from 6 months to 3 years through weekly music classes. Our very special teacher for these young students is Alison Basofin.
The ESO is proud to be part of a community network of organizations in Evanston that is addressing the needs of this underserved and vulnerable population through a collective impact model.
Thank you to our community partners for helping fund these programs:
- Woman’s Club of Evanston
- The Kiwanis Club of Evanston
- Arts MidWest
This engagement is supported by the Arts Midwest GIG Fund, a program of Arts Midwest that is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional contributions from The Illinois Arts Council.
Reaching all in our community:
The ESO is a founding member of Enrich Evanston, an informal group of four arts organizations that came together to develop inclusive practices in their organizations to address racial inequities in arts opportunities for people of color in Evanston.