Editorial: The community and the ESO – Chicago Daily Herald

Daily Herald Editorial Board

Posted12/22/2021 1:00 AM

The Elgin Symphony Orchestra has been a source of pride in the community for decades.

Founded in 1950, the ESO became a fully professional orchestra in 1985. It was named Orchestra of the Year four times, most recently in 2016, by the Illinois Council of Orchestras.

To folks living outside of Elgin, it would seem the ESO has done everything right.

So it was a surprise to hear the new leader of the ESO say the organization hasn’t done enough for the city of Elgin. But what a joy to hear how he plans to recommit the orchestra to its home base.

Marc Thayer, CEO of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, told the city council that the organization is seeking “to do things differently, to be more involved in the community, to partner and collaborate with the city.”

Thayer told the council members he has “become very aware that this orchestra has neglected and ignored many parts of the community, especially the Latino and other minority communities. And we are making efforts now to change that.”

In a follow-up interview with the Daily Herald’s Rick West, Thayer says he has hired four new employees who now live in Elgin. One of those hires is a translator.

The ESO is doing communications in both English and Spanish, trying to become a fully bilingual organization.

It’s also forming a community advisory committee to better engage with the community.

“We’re going to do concerts in churches and community centers,” Thayer said.

And while the ESO already does some work at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Thayer said, “that needs to expand to other hospitals and hospices and retirement homes and senior centers.”

Thayer also wants to add more school programming.

“Some people think the orchestra is just for a select few, and I know that’s how it has seemed in the past,” Thayer said. “It’s very much not that way now.”

Comments like that are music to our ears.

The ESO deserves praise for its push to be more accessible to the Elgin community.

Best of all, other suburban symphonies are trying to bring music to more people in different and diverse concert formats.

Earlier this year, the Naperville-based DuPage Symphony Orchestra entered into a long-term collaborative relationship with West Chicago. As a community partner, the orchestra will work with agencies and organizations in the city to offer programs and educational offerings.

Groups like the DSO and ESO are hitting all the right notes with their community outreach.

Their efforts will help introduce a generation of young people to the beauty of orchestral music.


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