The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s “At Home” Content: The Healing Arts

Maestro Riccardo Muti conducting The Chicago Symphony Orchestra
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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) has made it possible for all music lovers to obtain the highest quality musical content while sheltering at home. There is a dual initiative in place: 1) listeners can obtain curated archival concert materials along with interview materials and much more from the CSO’s radio page and can tune in to upcoming CSO Radio broadcasts  on WFMT (98.7 FM) and 2) there is new content–personal messages and performances–being posted by members of the CSO.

  • Click here to visit the CSO audio music library  (#protip: scroll to the bottom of the page to see all the different programs that are available for listening right now – 20+)
  • For a schedule of upcoming CSO radio broadcast programs (March to June 2020) that you can tune into and listen “live” on WFMT (98.7FM) go to WFMT radio listings here
  • To visit the new landing page the CSO has created for their time away from the concert hall, go to  CSO sounds & stories from home
Jonathan McCormick, Director of Education and The Negaunee Music Institute, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

The CSO is not just one of the premiere orchestras in the world, it is an educational outreach organization with numerous community-based programs designed to bring the universe of wondrous music to everybody, under any circumstances. Jonathan McCormick, Director, Education and the Negaunee Music Institute, (Negaunee) talked with me about some of the ways Negaunee connects people and communities to the extraordinary musical resources of the CSO, and he affirmed that both the acts of creating as well as participating in art and music are incredibly healing.

Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti, from the time of his appointment in 2010, made it his mission to ensure that the CSO would become more outward facing and community-minded than ever”. McCormick described the program in which the CSO interacts in its Projects for Underserved and Incarcerated Youth with the juvenile justice system both in Chicago and Du Page. “We have an interactive annual recital after a week-long music making program. Muti brings opera singers with him into the facilities and explains the relevance of the narrative to contemporary life. The opportunity for these troubled young people to learn, explore and create is life-affirming and game-changing”.

McCormick went on to discuss the CSO’s Initiative for a More Peaceful Chicago, in which family members who have lost loved ones to gun violence wrote songs of tribute, some of which were set to music, recorded and presented at an extremely moving Concert for Peace. “There are no bridges to get us back to the place before our families were torn apart by violence, no blueprint to moving past the loss of a child”, he said. “However, when the family members are encouraged to put their grief into words, and the words are accompanied by music, and performed by great musical artists in a community space such as St. Sabina’s Church, where the concert took place, the resilience of people can be expressed and something that was tragic inside can become joyous”.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Concert for Peace, St. Sabina’s Church, Chicago

Why is it so important for everybody to participate in the arts, especially at this time, when we are sheltering under mandate to protect our lives and the lives of others? The answer is: because art is a bridge between cultures, between people, and a potent healing force as well. Engaging with art fosters empathy, allows us to reach heights of emotional expression, while exorcising morbid emotional content, and creates a channel into our very psychology: it’s a powerful type of therapy all on its own.

There are many articles and books about the connection between art and healing, suggesting that art–and particularly music–has a restorative and regenerative quality; the topic is the subject of seminars, workshops and ongoing research.

Sheila Jones, Director Community Stewardship, CSO African American Network, established in 2016, which aims to engage Chicago’s culturally rich Black community through the sharing and exchanging of unforgettable musical experiences while building relationships for generations to come, was most enthusiastic in expressing her views about the transporting properties of great music.

“Where do we go when our hearts are broken? Where do we go to make them whole again? Where do we go to celebrate the joys and triumphs and relationships in our lives? We go to music! It’s the one gift that’s given to us all.” Jones went on, “Through music, you can speak directly to Our Creator without any interpreter. It is the means by which we can get to that quiet place within, that secret place of hope and faith”.

She added, “Music is a natural antidote to pain. It has always accompanied freedom movements. Now, with this disease threat, when many people are actually in a battle for their lives–and wherever there is fear and pain–we are all in this together. Although Blacks created jazz, and the CSO has a jazz series, Blacks are not just jazz musicians! We have always been conductors and composers of classical music, and more recently, of new art music.”

“What the CSO is doing in these tense times is making sure that for everybody, we create a place to go, to hear the greatest music in the world. The links, radio shows, archived content are a sanctuary; leave your troubles behind and turn to music.”

Sheila Jones, Director, Community Stewardship, African American Network, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Though concerts are canceled through May 10, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra offers a variety of digital content to help keep music in patrons’ lives. Please check out CSO Radio for broadcasts of prior CSO concerts, WFMT radio (98.7 FM) for ongoing concerts, CSO’s Facebook page, and the CSO’s channel on YouTube.

All photos by Todd Rosenberg

To get information on the CSO’s ongoing programs and resources, and for upcoming concert schedules for 2020-2021, go to CSO


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