In 1987 Maestro Paul Freeman created the Chicago Sinfonietta in response to a lack of opportunities for minority musicians. Over the last 24 years, the Sinfonietta has grown to be a nationwide leader welcoming all walks of life and has become known as the most diverse professional orchestra. A sinfonietta is a musical group smaller than a full orchestra.
In order to see the Sinfonietta perform, audience members had to go to Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. Now Naperville residents won’t have to drive as far.
This year, the 70-piece ensemble will be playing at a new facility, the Wentz Concert Hall at North Central College.
“My first time being in the Wentz was a welcome dinner on stage and I could not believe how good the acoustics are right there,” said Mei-Ann Chen, Music Director for the Chicago Sinfonietta. “We’re so excited to bring the orchestra out here to this beautiful neighborhood.”
The Sinfonietta is no stranger to the Wentz; they played there in both 2010 and 2011 for the college’s annual Martin Luther King Junior Week.
“I think we already have wonderful support,” said Chen. “We’re so excited to bring my inaugural season here to share with the community. It is my time in my career that I can give back what I’ve been given, so I’m so excited.”
Location isn’t the only change for the Sinfonietta this year. For the first time since 1987, someone new is conducting the music.
Taiwan born Chen is the first woman to win the Malko International Conductors Competition and is considered in the orchestral world as one of America’s most exciting and dynamic young conductors. After a two year international search, the Sinfonietta board named Chen as Maestro Freeman’s successor.
“The orchestra and I were pretty much, if you can call it, love at first sight,” said Chen. “Within the first five minutes of my first rehearsal, that was 2009, there was immediate chemistry between the orchestra and I. Plus, Chicago being one of my favorite cities or all time in this country is a no brainer for me.
While in Naperville, Chen and the Chicago Sinfonietta plan to work closely with students from Districts 203 and 204 as well as North Central College, conducting workshops, inviting them to come to concerts and observe rehearsals.
“It’s so important for the younger generation to be exposed to our wonderful art form and education,” said Chen. “For me personally, it comes from the heart and not work because we’re making a difference in someone’s life.”
The Chicago Sinfonietta will play their first concert for the season at the Wentz Concert Hall on September 24th.
For a full list of the Chicago Sinfonietta’s concerts and times, visit their website at chicagosinfonietta.org.
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