Have you ever stopped to think about why otherwise busy people put extraordinary time and effort into million dollar fundraisers for cultural institutions? The “why” behind their actions is almost always inspiring. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra ’s upcoming Symphony Ball  on Oct. 15 is the culmination of the Orchestra’s 125th anniversary season. The organizers of the annual gala intend to raise at least $1 million in support of the CSO’s artistic programs, as well as a variety of community and education initiatives.
The CSO is not only one of the world’s premier orchestras, but it also benefits from the loyal support and dedication of more than 600 volunteers. These individuals help make it possible for schools, community organizations and other under-served populations to connect with the exceptional musical resources of the CSO. Additionally their work and philanthropy makes concert programming at the highest artistic level available at Chicago’s Symphony Center and around the world.
Before connecting with the resources of the CSO, many of Nicholas Hall’s students at Chicago’s Agassiz Elementary School  had never attended a symphony orchestra concert. Hall, a Chicago Public School  teacher, had the opportunity to participate in the CSO’s new Connect program, which included a trip for him and his students to Symphony Center for a school concert focused on themes and ideas found in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Taking inspiration from the experience, Hall’s students proudly performed their own original production at Agassiz school for their parents after four months of preparation.
Hall says the “Romeo and Juliet” project, which involved students creating their own storyboards and musical scores, was “not something we would’ve been able to do” without the support of CSO Connect, a program of the Negaunee Music Institute  at the CSO. “We needed the financial and material support,” says Hall. “We do lots of arts innovation programs at our school, but this was on a much grander scale.”
This year’s Symphony Ball fundraising goal is $1 million, and the money will help support outstanding concerts performed weekly during the season by the CSO, as well as programs in schools, hospitals and other community venues.
“These programs reach thousands of diverse young people who may never have a chance to experience orchestral music, and engages student audiences in accessible and meaningful ways,” says Laura King, CSO Women’s Board community engagement chair and co-chair of the Symphony Ball.
Jamey Fadim, CSO Association life trustee and Symphony Ball co-chair, describes the event as a “once in a lifetime … opportunity.” Festivities will include performances of works by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Wagner that recreate the CSO’s very first concert, followed by dinner and dancing at the Palmer House.
Chicago is fortunate to enjoy the leadership of the individuals who do the fundraising heavy lifting. And how satisfying it must be for them to see the dollars that they raise utilized in ways that impact audiences worldwide and communities in the Chicago area. Hopefully their example inspires others to pay it forward with great win/win opportunities like Symphony Ball, too.
For more information about the CSO’s programs, and to purchase tickets for this year’s Symphony Ball, go to cso.org  or call 312-294-3185.
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