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An ESO musician’s take on symphony’s current status

Updated: March 2, 2013 7:09AM



I have been the bass trombonist of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra for over 11 seasons. In addition to this, I have served as a musician representative to the ESO board of directors for over three years. I am very proud of my orchestra and how fantastic we sound right now.

After living in Chicago for over 11 years, I decided that I wanted to live closer to one of my several “part-time” orchestra jobs. I choose to become an Elgin resident because it is unique in the Chicago region. Those of us who live here see the transition that is happening. Elgin residents are excited with the opening of Artspace and the great possibilities that will come with the opening of the food co-op, Shared Harvest, in downtown Elgin. We also get excited every time a new restaurant opens or moves to downtown Elgin. Gail Borden Public Library is the envy of the Chicago area. There is no way I would have ever left Chicago if this town did not have an outstanding library.

The linchpin of the continued success and developing character of Elgin is our first-rate, professional orchestra, the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. On May 18, 2012, the ESO had something very extraordinary happen. One of our board members, David Bearden, volunteered to serve as interim CEO. Bearden had only recently just joined the ESO Board of Directors in the fall of 2011. Since Bearden has taken the reins, the ESO has made huge strides in moving past our former financial struggles. In the short time that I have gotten to know Bearden, he has shown himself to be an extraordinarily capable business leader for the ESO. I have the highest regard for Bearden as a human being and have every faith that he is building a solid foundation for the ESO and this community. I have complete confidence in the current ESO Board of Directors under the leadership of Board President Bert Crossland. They are giving their time and money to help make the ESO an even better orchestra than it already is. These are people of the highest character whose only desire is to leave a lasting contribution to the residents of Elgin and the region.

The Elgin Symphony Board of Directors also has done something very extraordinary. It has given the musicians a seat at the table in letting us help choose who our next boss will be. The ESO board invited four musicians to serve on the music director search committee. These four were elected by the musicians of the orchestra. The ESO board was also gracious enough to state that no one will become the next music director of the ESO without obtaining three out of four musician votes. This is regardless of the votes of the rest of the music director search committee, which includes ESO staff and board members. The Elgin Symphony Orchestra is attractive to conductors because we are comprised of some of the best freelance musicians in the Chicago area. As good as the ESO has been in the past, it is becoming even better. My colleagues and I have a spring in our step every time we come to work. Anyone who has sat in the audience for our concerts recently can see and hear a big difference in the quality of the orchestra. There is no coincidence that the size of our audience has continued to grow this season.

In addition to looking for a great musician, the music director search committee is also looking for someone to be a great steward to the community. I have every faith that the search committee will select the best of several very strong candidates. ESO musicians and our audiences deserve a world-class conductor as our next music director, and we are finally going to get one.

Since the fall of 2011, the excitement in air has been palpable. ESO musicians and our audiences have been treated to the very highest level of musicianship with all of our music director candidates. Several of my colleagues have stated to me that this season and last season have been the highlights of their careers.

During the current 2012-13 season, our audiences have been enjoying great works that have not been performed by the ESO in a very long time and, in some cases, ever. Four classics concert series are left this season. I invite you to hear all of these wonderful programs. I can say with complete confidence that you will be blown away!

The future of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra is very bright indeed.

Mark Fry is the ESO bass trombonist and musician representative to its board of directors.



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