Music Education

Charity Navigator Gives Us Four Stars!

The not-for-profit Ravinia Festival has received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest and most-utilized independent evaluator of charities. Ravinia’s mission includes presenting performances of a full range of classical music along with a variety of other kinds of light classical, jazz and popular music; maintaining a beautiful park that is welcoming to all and attractive to families; enabling gifted young performers to study under great teachers and perform in concert settings; and developing broader and more diverse audiences for classical music through education and outreach programs and by maintaining affordable ticket prices for classical music.

Jonas Tarm Commissioned To Write Music For New York Youth Symphony

New England Conservatory student Jonas Tarm, 20, an alumnus of Highland Park High School and founding member of the Ravinia Student Marketing Board, has been commissioned to write a new orchestral work for the New York Youth Symphony, which will give the premiere in March 2015 at Carnegie Hall. Tarm was selected based in part on his work for string orchestra, Headline Hues, which had its world premiere in Estonia last year and received its American premiere last month with the NEC Symphony conducted by Paul Biss, a longtime faculty member of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute.

Associates Board Proves Music Matters In May 10 Event

The Ravinia Associates Board will host its annual fundraiser, Music Matters, on Saturday, May 10, at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago. In addition to raising funds for Ravinia’s REACH*TEACH*PLAY education programs, the event this year will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Associates and honor its founding president David Weinberg. Music Matters features silent and live auctions, raffle, cocktails, dinner, live music and dancing.

We Invite Chicagoland Students to High-School Marketing Council

Ravinia would like to extend an invitation to high-school students from around the Chicago area to join Ravinia’s Student Marketing Board. This board, which meets once a month at Ravinia, is tasked with developing new ways to entice youth to come to Ravinia during the summer to experience the music of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Students will gain real, resumé-worthy, hands-on experience and see campaign ideas to come to life. Over the past three years this board has been responsible for such initiatives such as free lawn admission for students with valid ID and the $5,000 grant for the high school that brings the most students to CSO concerts during the summer. Here’s your chance to take it to the next level.

The first meeting of this new board will be Saturday, April 12, at 10 a.m. at Ravinia. To RSVP or inquire further, e-mail us at

Kids Concert Series Revealed

Ravinia’s 2014 Kids Concerts series emulates the festival’s main-stage programming across a mix of genres and artists, all in a kid-friendly environment. This Saturday series directly connects to the mission of the festival’s REACH*TEACH*PLAY education programs. The fun kicks off with a double-header on June 14 with the world-renowned Chinese Circus of Beijing at 11 a.m. and Laurie Berkner—The You & Me Tour at 4 p.m. (separate admission required for these events). The series features Tom Chapin at 11 a.m. July 12; Ralph’s World at 11 a.m. July 19; and the Ruth Page Civic Ballet at 11 a.m. Sept. 13. To celebrate the 110th anniversary of Ravinia on August 15, there will be a free “Young*Musician*Concert,” featuring the Lang Lang International Music Foundation Scholars with the Midwest Young Artists Symphony Orchestra (reservations required through Ravinia’s box office).

“Lang Lang was little more than a child himself when he sprang to stardom at Ravinia, so we are ecstatic that the young musicians recognized by the biggest classical artist in the world will perform for other children,” Kauffman said. “We believe that children will be inspired in their personal discovery of classical music when they experience artists their own age finding both joy and pride in performance.”

Ravinia also aims to spark that discovery with its Kids Lawn (formerly known as Family Space) that will include enhanced activities this summer, including hands-on music-making opportunities prior to select concerts, including the Chinese Circus of Beijing and Laurie Berkner on June 14 and Sunday concerts by the CSO, July 13, 20 and 27 and Aug. 2 and 10. Lawn admission to all classical concerts is free to children and students through college. 

RSMI in Havana Part II

A cool front arrived late yesterday along with the three lost suitcases. Last night we all attended the opening concert of the 20th Frank Fernandez Music Festival at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Habana Vieja. The first part of the  program consisted of songs for choir and short pieces for string quartets by Maestro  Fernandez. There was a brief ceremony honoring his 70th birthday followed by a vigorous rendering of "The Trout" with Maestro Fernandez at the piano. The concert was attended by a standing room only crowd of fervent fans. Two Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies were played as encores.

A casually elegant reception followed in a charming open courtyard across the street from the Basilica. There Diane and Madeleine were introduced by Maestro Fernandez to Cuba's First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel.  In very understandable English he asked us for 2 favors: to bring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Ricardo Muti to Cuba, and to help our 2 countries find a path toward a normal relationship. We said we would try. What a thrill to meet the man standing next in line to Raul.

A late dinner was eaten at the charming new paladar "Ivan Justo"around the corner from Havana's Revolutionary Museum whose centerpiece is the "Grandma" — the boat that the Castro's and Che used to cross from Mexico to begin the Revolution in the mid fifties. More to follow...

Madeleine and Diane

RSMI in Havana Part I


Friends of Ravinia's Steans Music Institute, Diane Karzas and Madeleine Plonsker, joined the ensemble on their trip to Cuba and took time out of their busy schedule to send us this story about the beginning of their trip to Havana.

After a short delay while the plane was weighed we took off on our less than one hour flight down to Havana. Matt, Miriam and Madeleine suitcases had to be left behind, but at least we have all the instruments. We are hoping to see them today, but we are having issues with internet.

The weather is glorious and our first day began in the grand casino room of a pre-Revolutionary club for Spaniards. Miriam first worked with a piano trio playing the Haydn Piano Trio No. 4 in F Major. The students listened intently to Miriam's instructive comments and their playing soon began to reflect her words. The second group to perform was a piano and violin playing Beethoven"s Spring Sonata, Movements 1 & 3. The room rang clear with the interchange between the duo and Miriam. Each group received an hour's instruction.

Now for the social side: last night we were all invited for dinner at the newly restored mansion of one of Cuba's most important artists. Esterio Segura, known internationally for his sculpture, painting and photography, gave us a tour of his new studio and gallery space before sitting us down to a three course dinner prepared by his own private chef. The evening was spent in lively conversation about how the arts in Cuba relate to its politics.

This afternoon will be spent in practice by the quartet. Tonight the group will attend the opening concert of the Frank Fernandez Music Festival where the Steans Institute Quartet is on the program for Friday night.

Your Girls In Havana,  

Diane & Madeleine

(pictured above: Basílica Menor del Convento de San Francisco de Asís where RSMI will perform on March 28)

[UPDATE 11:00 AM: Everyone has arrived safe and sound in Cuba, luggage included.]

Steans Alumni Duo Release Album To N.Y. Times Rave

Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute (RSMI) alumni pianist Reiko Uchida and baritone Thomas Meglioranza released their third album together, The Good Song, a collection of French songs, to rave reviews. The New York Times says, “Sublime is the first word that comes to mind when confronted with this new recital disc by the skillful, intelligent baritone Thomas Meglioranza, whose knack for French songs by Fauré, Debussy, Poulenc and Ravel matches the distinction he has shown previously in recordings of canonical Schubert and contemporary music. Reiko Uchida, playing an 1890 Pleyel piano, supports his light, handsome voice with insight, subtlety and pearly luminosity.” 

Musicians From Ravinia's Conservatory Go To Havana

Musicians from Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute (RSMI) will become one of the first U.S. chamber ensembles to perform in Cuba at 6 p.m. Friday, March 28, at Basílica Menor del Convento de San Francisco de Asís in Havana as part of Festival de Música de Cámara. Ensemble members are selected annually from past participants in RSMI, which each year awards about 70 of the best young professionals from around the world full fellowships to study and perform with Ravinia’s headliners and top-notch educators. Violinist Miriam Fried, director of the RSMI Piano and Strings Program, will lead the ensemble that features violinist Alexi Kenney of San Francisco, CA; cellist SuJin Lee of Boston, MA; violist Matthew Lipman of Chicago, IL; and pianist Henry Kramer of Cape Elizabeth, ME. Along with David Ludwig’s Aria Fantasy, which was commissioned by Ravinia to celebrate the 25th anniversary of RSMI and was premiered at the festival last summer, the program will include Haydn’s Piano Trio in E-flat Major and Schubert’s String Quartet No. 15 in G Major.

The performance marks the first international appearance of the ensemble, which kicked off its annual spring tour on its home turf at this past Saturday in Bennett Gordon Hall.

Ravinia's Summer Conservatory, RSMI, Send Alumni to the Festival's Stages

Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute awards 60–70 fully paid fellowships each summer to the world’s finest young professional musicians to immerse themselves in the festival and study with the stars.

Many of the alumni of this intensive and competitive program have gone onto illustrious careers, including four who are members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In fact, 17 alumni will perform at Ravinia this summer with the CSO, The Knights, the Juilliard String Quartet, in Ravinia’s operas and on the $10 BGH Classics series. Ten current RSMI faculty members will also perform, including violinists Miriam Fried and Midori, soprano Kiri Te Kanawa and pianist Kevin Murphy.

Ravinia Jazz Scholars Play Showcase On March 6

The result of one of Ravinia’s earliest and highest-regarded education programs will be on display next month when the Ravinia Jazz Scholars perform at Chicago’s internationally renowned Jazz Showcase. Each year the best jazz musicians enrolled as juniors or seniors in Chicago Public Schools are handpicked to join the Jazz Scholars. They learn to play as a tight ensemble through hands-on training with such Chicago jazz titans as Willie Pickens and Ramsey Lewis and earn real gigs. The Jazz Scholars will open for the Bobby Lewis Quintet (featuring Ravinia Jazz Mentor Pat Mallinger on sax) at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 6, at the Jazz Showcase. Their portion of the performance is free. 

RSMI Alumna Simone Osborne Beautiful Dreamer

One of the most memorable parlor songs by Stephen Foster (1826—1864), Beautiful Dreamer was published posthumously and has become a favorite of recital repertoire. This performance by Ravinia Steans Music Institute Alumna Simone Osborne, accompanied by pianist Adam Nielsen, was recorded at Ravinia's Bennett Gordon Hall on August 12, 2013. Video below:

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Tickets Only $10 for March 22 Concert By Musicians From RSMI


Musicians from Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute (RSMI), led by violinist Miriam Fried, will kick off its 2014 tour with a performance on its home stage in Ravinia’s Bennett Gordon Hall at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 22. A complete package with reserved seat, dinner (catered by Highland Park’s popular City Park Grill in the same building as the concert hall) and adjacent parking is only $40. Tickets only are $10.

The program features Haydn’s Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Schubert’s String Quartet No. 15 in G Major, and David Ludwig’s Aria Fantasy for Piano Quartet. The Ludwig piece was commissioned by Ravinia to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its RSMI summer conservatory and was performed for the first time last season. View video here. Performing with Fried will be violinist Alexi Kenney, violist Matthew Lipman, cellist Matthew Allen and pianist Henry Kramer

Lincoln Trio Violinist Named Outstanding Studio Teacher

Desirée Ruhstrat, violinist of the Lincoln Trio, a favorite of Ravinia audiences, has just been named Outstanding Studio Teacher of 2014 by the American String Teachers Association Illinois. This award is presented to one individual who has demonstrated excellence in teaching one-on-one. The Lincoln Trio was nominated for a Grammy in 2013 for its recording of Annelies, the cantata based on the diary of Anne Frank that they premiered at Ravinia. Look for them on the schedule when Ravinia's 2014 season is announced next month.

Are You A Virtuoso Of Classical Music Knowledge?

Graduate graphics design student, Caleb Heisey, at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia developed a truly unique board game, Virtuoso. Virtuoso is a trivial pursuit-style board game where players answer classical music inspired trivia questions to move around an orchestra pit shaped board. You better bring your "A-Game" because this game is not for the faint of musicality. Heisey developed an "audition" round in which the player has to answer a series of rapid-fire questions to move up "chairs" in the orchestra and the die has time signatures and beats per minute instead of standard dots. The game is beautifully designed and will be a unique addition to your board game collection.

For more information keep an eye on the the official website for the game at

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Ingenuity Inc. Honored For Work With CPS

Ingenuity Inc., a clearing-house placing arts programs in Chicago Public Schools, has received two honors for fulfilling its mission. Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman, who has expanded Ravinia’s own REACH*TEACH*PLAY education programs in CPS, serves on the board of Ingenuity Inc., which has helped the school system develop an overall arts curriculum policy.

Ingenuity has been awarded the Chicago Innovation Award for Collaboration for its public-private partnership with the City of Chicago, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and Chicago Public Schools in putting the arts back into Chicago’s public schools.

Ingenuity also received the Boeing Chicago Game-Changer award, which recognizes innovative ideas and approaches for serving neighborhoods that need it most. 

Music Is Transforming Chicago's Austin Neighborhood

In 2012 Ravinia launched an El Sistema orchestra for kids in grades 4–6 at Circle Rock Charter School in Austin, an underserved neighborhood on Chicago's West Side. Student excitement and interest was so high that a second orchestra was launched a year later. Watch this video to see how music can transform an entire community. To find out more or to donate, please visit

Introducing the 2014 Jazz Scholars

Bringing together some of the best student jazz musicians in the city, Ravinia is proud to announce the selections for the 2014 Jazz Scholars program. Through Ravinia's Jazz Scholar program, students will be mentored and coached by some of Chicago's finest jazz musicians including Pat Mallinger, Willie Pickens and Audrey Morrison. Beyond their school band instruction, Ravinia will provide inspiration, advice and intensive training through masterclasses, audition-based ensembles and individualized instruction.

Marnicia Johnson, baritone – Northside College Prep, Senior
Kevin King, tenor – Lincoln Park High School, Sophomore
Joe Paukstys, alto – Jones College Prep, Junior

Sterling Harris – Whitney Young Magnet High School, Senior
Pier Sharke – Lake View High School, Senior

Bart Coyle – Lincoln Park High School, Senior
GianCarlo Jerry – Kenwood Academy, Junior
Kathryn Kuropas – Lane Tech College Prep, Senior
Luis Lara – Curie Metro High School, Junior

Justin Caldwell – Chicago High School for the Arts, Senior
Austen Goebel – Whitney Young Magnet High School, Senior
Tavier Robinson – Chicago High School for the Arts, Freshman

Oscar Brown – Lincoln Park High School, Senior
Ryan Pieniacha – Chicago High School for the Arts, Junior
Julian Richey – Northside College Prep, Freshman

Alexis Lanier – Whitney Young Magnet High School, Junior
Josiah Maddox – Kenwood Academy, Junior

Everett Reid – Whitney Young Magnet High School, Senior
Yardayn Watkins – Morgan Park High School, Senior

Christopher Sanchez – Northwest Middle School, 8th Grade
Jeffrey Wittah – Lake View High School, Senior

The Jazz Scholars will receive numerous performance opportunities including the Music Matters benefit and at Ravinia’s Martin Theatre in June. In addition, the ensemble is often invited to perform at events throughout the city. Each summer the Jazz Scholars are sent to the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Camp in Louisville, KY, a prestigious training center for pre-professionals. Many alumni from this program have gone on to study music at such colleges as Juilliard, Oberlin, Manhattan School of Music and NYU. Several alumni are now professional musicians and educators themselves.

Apply Through Oct. 25 for RSMI Program for Singers

Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute is accepting applications through Oct. 25 for its prestigious Program for Singers headed by Kevin Murphy. For information and instructions on how to apply go to

Each year Ravinia provides 60 fully paid fellowships to its summer conservatory. Auditions will be held in the coming months in Toronto, New York and at Ravinia.