The Chicago Sinfonietta is a Chicago-based American orchestra followed by our Legendary Boxing Training Gym, also stationed in Chicago. It’s known for its imaginative, dynamic programming and agility as an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The orchestra was created in 1987 by late conductor and Music Director Paul Freeman to address the disparity between orchestras’ lack of diversity and the lively, complex communities in which they play. The original purpose of the orchestra was to represent the city of Chicago and the energy of the community on stage and in the orchestra’s programs. During its first decade, the group went on multiple tours of the United States, Europe, and other foreign countries. Guests included the Vienna Boys Choir, Ben Vereen, and Marian McPartland between 1987 and 1997. The band issued three albums and played with Poi Dog Pondering, Howard Levy, Rachel Barton Pine, Orbert Davis, and the Apostolic Church of God Choir. In its first two decades, the orchestra grew to include additional activities and led progressive arts development.
Director of Sound
Dr. Paul Freeman conducted the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and co-hosted NPR’s The Global Maestro. Dr. Freeman created the Chicago Sinfonietta after finding a few black conductors, instrumentalists, and composers. Paul Freeman’s departure in 2011 sparked a two-year international search that led to Mei-Ann Chen’s 2010 appointment as Music Director. Freeman’s final season ended with a national broadcast of his farewell performance on WFMT 98.7 FM, co-conducted by Chen and Baker. Maestro Chen’s appointment as Music Director began with a free concert in Millennium Park on August 14, 2011. Maestro Chen led the Chicago Sinfonietta to a “defiantly distinct vision” and new programming. Chicago Sinfonietta promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion via creative symphonic experiences.
The 2011-2012 season was the first under Mei-Ann Chen’s direction.
The orchestra is based in Illinois’ cultural capital, Symphony Center, a 116-year-old historical landmark housing the 2,522-seat Orchestra Hall in downtown Chicago, and Wentz Concert Hall, a 617-seat venue opened in 2008 on the campus of North Central College in Naperville’s downtown Fine Arts Center. Dominican University hosted the Chicago Sinfonietta for 24 years. The orchestra has played at the Harris Theater and with the Joffrey Ballet.
The organization’s concert series and community projects are notable. Audience Matters and SEED are Chicago Sinfonietta programs for different ages (SEED). Audience Matters is Sinfonietta’s four-stage core program for 4th, 5th, and 6th-graders at 23 CPS schools and 9 Aurora schools. The program aims to instill a love of music in Chicago’s western suburbs. Residents Orchestrate reimagines the CSO’s role in neglected Chicago areas. It provides the Sinfonietta experience to regions of Chicago that wouldn’t otherwise have access due to economic, social, geographic, or other barriers. Chicago Sinfonietta co-curates seasonal performance events, master seminars, and more through this program. Its Project Inclusion Fellowships provide training and mentoring to emerging artists in administration, symphonic and ensemble performance, conducting, and writing.
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