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Chicago Sinfonietta Ball Review – Rethink, Redefine, Reimagine

By Amy Munice

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When we saw FootworKINGz hip hop it up to Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” it sure seemed like that was how the dancing was always meant to be. ..



That performance was just one way that Chicago Sinfonietta and its hard-working volunteers for its annual ball certainly met their mission of “Rethink, Redefine and Reimagine”.  Along the way they helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Chicago Sinfonietta Orchestra—with style and panache as exquisite as some of the fashion statements on display at this black tie event. 


The ball was a well attended smooth run evening, which Chicago Sinfonietta Executive Director Jim Hirsh will tell you he does easily because of his “secret weapon”, a.k.a. Courtney Perkins, Director of Development and Operations for the Chicago Sinfonietta.  Perkins has been corralling an A-Level team of volunteers to run the annual ball for eight years.



Arguably, Chicago’s Sinfonietta is the hippest orchestra in town.  Without a doubt, it is the most diverse and inclusive classical music orchestra in the nation, and one that never fails to titillate your senses as they stretch the boundaries of what classical music can be.   If any orchestra is helping to generate new audiences for generations to come, it surely is Chicago Sinfonietta.



More than 500 guests first mingled for hors d’oeuvres and drinks while listening to Chicago Sinfonietta’s “Project Inclusion Ensemble Trio” (two-year Sinfonietta veterans Sarah Martin, violin and Sandra Bailey, bassoon along with relative newcomer Bruno Vaz da Silva on viola). 



Following was a formal sit down dinner and performance by Chicago Sinfonietta including:  Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino”, Hardeman’s “Symphony No. 3 – Blues Movement”, FootworKINGz dance accompaniment to both Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake, Op. 20” and Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance”, with a finale of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture, Op. 49”. 



As a frequenter of many Chicago Sinfonietta concerts this was clearly a cut above performance with the orchestra at one and totally responsive to Mei-Ann Chen’s energetic baton.  One imagines great chemistry between Chen and her orchestra as she clearly has them giving it their all. 



From the show of hands, it seemed as if about half the crowd at this black tie event were new to Chicago Sinfonietta.  That’s no small feat and probably has a lot to do with the fact that event Civic Chair and marketing specialist, Elena Britton,started her career as a corporate event planner. The Corporate Co-Chairs, David Rawlinson (VP, Deputy General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for Grainger ) and his wife Nadia Rawlinson (Co-Head of Global HR at Groupon) did their part and then some, bringing their network to their home for a pre-ball concert event and in other ways bringing awareness of Chicago Sinfonietta to a new crowd.



Rich Gamble was the lucky person to win the $10,000 raffle drawing.  But there were dozens of other winners in the auctions that followed, with prizes ranging from travel, to performances, and more.  The enthusiasm at the auction was contagious.



What makes Chicago Sinfonietta patrons so obviously loyal and spirited? Perhaps speaking for many in the crowd, Elena Britton says, “I saw the talent that the Sinfonietta develops, even with the younger students and it just blew me away…Every time I go to the ball they always feature a phenomenal young artist, a prodigy, and to see these young people embracing classical music is amazing.”



At this ball the prodigy was composer, conductor and Detroit High School student Jherrard Marseille Hardeman.  Giving a young conductor their debut must have been especially heart-warming for Chen, who had previously told Splash magazine that introducing an innovative program for young conductors , a first in the nation, was a main goal for her work with the Chicago Sinfonietta.


Nadia Rawlinson, whose day job is in the hi-tech world of Groupon, says she is drawn to Chicago Sinfonietta precisely because it is so “disruptive”.  She explains, “Since I work in the tech industry I’m always looking for models that can be disruptive…Sinfonietta is thinking about diversity in a different way in what is otherwise such a traditional genre.  Classical music is usually not diverse and Chicago Sinfonietta is especially successful highlighting new and upcoming virtuosos and giving them a platform that they ordinarily wouldn’t have.”


Some of us like Chicago Sinfonietta because it seems to represent some of what is best in Chicago--- diversity, abundance of talent, dedication to the arts, and making culture accessible to all.


This is also an organization that welcomes volunteers and interns.  If you’d like to become part of this success story in Chicago diversity and inclusion contact David Mei at (312) 236.3681 ext 1552.


If you want to become a subscriber know the 2014- 2015 season has new treats like a punk marching band accompaniment.  Thank you Chicago Sinfonietta for stretching the boundaries—always!  For tickets and information visit the Chicago Sinfonietta website or call the box office at 312.284.1554.




Photos:  Jasmin Shah Photography





Published on Jun 10, 2014

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