About Classical Music Chicago
Since 1976, Classical Music Chicago (CMC) has offered a variety of unforgettable classical music performances by up and coming and established artists throughout the Chicago community. A celebrated innovator from the very beginning and one of the first to focus on the importance of accessibility, presenting engaging concerts in various formats and venues free of charge, CMC is the 2016 union of two distinguished Chicago music institutions: the International Music Foundation (IMC), founded by Chicagoan Al Booth, and Rush Hour Concerts (RHC) founded by pianist and civic leader Deborah Sobol in 2000. Over the next few seasons, CMC will celebrate landmark anniversaries of each of its acclaimed series, beginning with the year-long 25th anniversary of the Rush Hour Concerts in 2024-2025, the 50th Anniversary of the Do-It-Yourself Messiah concert in 2025, and the 50th anniversary of the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts in fall 2026.
IMF comprised the Do-It-Yourself Messiah at Orchestra Hall begun in 1976, and the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts, modeled on the series launched by Dame Myra Hess during World War II, to provide young artists with a performance outlet and present top caliber concerts free to the public. Begun in 1977, such acclaimed musicians as sopranos Elizabeth Frutal, June Anderson and Jo Ann Pickens; baritone Richard Cowan; oboist Alex Klein; guitarists Eliot Fisk and Paul Henry; violinists Rachel Barton Pine, Jennifer Frautschi, Jennifer Koh, Robyn Bollinger, and Tessa Lark; cellists Steven Isserlis, Nathanel Rosen, Jeffrey Solow and Bion Tsang; pianists David Shrader, Jeffrey Kahane, Angela Hewitt, Barry Douglas, Daniel Trifonov, and Max Levinson; and ensembles including the Vermeer Quartet, the Chicago Bassoon Quartet, His Majesties Clerkes, the Enzo String Quartet, and Orchestra Sinfonica Haydn di Bolzano e Trentoto, to name a few, have graced the Hess stage. In 1982, Live Music Now! – currently Young People’s Concerts – was founded by Booth with the assistance of his friend Yehudi Menuhin to bring professional musicians into the Chicago Public Schools. Students in grades K – 8 experience live performances, which have grown to reach more than 90 Chicago Public Schools annually.
Rush Hour Concerts, begun in 2000 as a welcoming summer concert format that removed accessibility barriers, in 2011 introduced Make Music Chicago, a citywide, daylong celebration of music making held on the summer solstice. It was followed by the addition of a professional ensemble residency program in Chicago’s neighborhoods in 2012. The 2023 Rush Hour Concerts at the beautiful St. James Cathedral begin in June.
The latest addition to Classical Music Chicago’s roster of offerings is The Concerts for Well-being and Rejuvenation, bringing the healing power of music to people and places who do not have access to live performances. CMC partners onsite with health care facilities, community centers, meals programs and other organizations where music can make a vital difference. promoting community, creative interaction and therapeutic benefits through 45-minute interactive performances followed by a Q & A with the artists.