Grant Park Music Festival 79th Season Review – Successfully Seeding Love of Classical Music for Generations to Come


Now that Grant Park Music Festival has wrapped up it’s 79th season and is readying its 4-score Year Program, it’s timely to take a step back and marvel at what the Festival has done for Chicago.


This year, the crowds on a slow night definitely topped those of the first years when the orchestra had just moved to its spectacular Pritzker Pavilion home.   It feels like double the crowd, even on a slow night.


In those early years, some critics in the peanut gallery actually faulted the city for putting too much emphasis on elitist classical music.   Try to tell that to the wall-to-wall, or rather fence-to-fence crowds on the lawn and seats alike that make the festival truly festive all summer long. 



It’s not just numbers -- it’s the changing face of the crowd.  Yes, the front rows of donors are heavy on Anglo seniors, but look back and you’ll see Chicago in more of its diverse glory—ethnic, age, neighborhoods—and also the many foreign tourists who make the concerts a top priority destination. 



The Grant Park Music Festival is seeding a love of classical music for generations to come and that is no small achievement.



This development was not just luck or accident.  Kudos goes to the Grant Park Music Festival Association and the orchestra’s administration for putting an emphasis on mix-it-up programming that resulted in a “something for everyone” Festival this 79th Season. 



Paul Winberg, president and CEO of the Grant Park Music Festival comments, “Audiences were treated to a season of eclectic concerts including Qinang Chen’s
‘Iris Devoilee’, Rachmaninov’s ‘Piano Concerto No. 2’ this past week with Valentina Lisitsa,



‘Alexander Nevsky’ with the Grant Park Chorus…along with programs like our multi-media tribute ‘Caminos del Inka’ and Robert Sierra’s ‘Concerto for Saxophones’ with jazz great James Carter.  We also celebrated two anniversaries this season with the 100th anniversary of Stravinksy’s ‘The Rite of Spring’ and the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten with his ‘War Requiem.”



I’d also short list Pink Martini, which arguably had the most jam packed attendance on a work night, the Wednesday June 19 concert.


Here are a few snippets of Pink Martini to show you what you what you missed or to remind you of that night of WOW!




Mr. Winberg lists Pink Martini as one of the more heavily attended concerts, along with Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” on July 5 and 6, the Rodgers and Hammerstein Celebration July 17, Shostakovich “5th Symphony” July 24, Rachmaninov “Second Piano Concerto” on August 14 and the season finale of “The Rite of Spring” on August 17 and 18.


Other season highlights included the 615 pre-concert lectures on Saturday performances that Winberg reports now have developed “a dedicated following”.  



The orchestra partnered with the Chicago Park District and WFMT to promote performances at the Columbus Park Refectory and the South Shore Cultural Center. Winberg comments, “We were thrilled to see standing room only audiences at the South Shore Cultural Center and a stellar review in a local daily paper.”


If you haven’t been to a Grant Park Music Festival Concert don’t keep missing out.  Next summer will be the orchestra’s 80th anniversary and the 10th Anniversary of Millennium Park. 


You can keep your eye on developments by signing up for “exclusive updates” at



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