Music Education

Ravinia Makes A Difference

Ravinia President & CEO Welz Kauffman dropped by the NBC5 Chicago studios to discuss with Kye Martin the importance of the festival’s Reach*Teach*Play education programs to the development of young students. Over 85,000 community members are served through Ravinia’s RTP Programs each year, ensuring that music education remains accessible to all. The programs are designed to educate, foster diverse audience involvement, and provide the population with equitable access to live music experiences in their communities and at Ravinia.

Ravinia Receives Grants

We are pleased to announce that the Highland Park Public Library has received a major grant from the Illinois State Library for “Ravinia: Music Under the Stars Around the World,” a collaboration with the Ravinia Festival Association to digitize significant items from both the festival’s and the library’s collections documenting Ravinia’s history. The grant of more than $80,000, awarded by Jesse White, Secretary of State and State Librarian, will be used to create a virtual Ravinia collection available to the public on the Illinois Digital Archive, greatly expanding access to the history of the country’s oldest outdoor music festival.

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Building Bridges: The iron is hot for fusing jazz and classical in RSMI's composition competition

It was in the spirit of the intense and aspirational goals of RSMI’s ambitious programs for jazz and classical musicians—as well as the bold musical vision of Leonard Bernstein, whom Ravinia has just gotten underway celebrating with an expansive multiyear tribute—that Bridges, an international jazz and classical fusion composition competition, was born. It offered an imaginative challenge for artists ages 17–30 (the same age range as the 60–70 performers invited to RSMI each year) to compose original works specifically for a string quartet and a jazz trio. “The Bridges competition was conceived to help give young professionals a place on the map—if not the world stage—which is precisely what RSMI has been granting singers and instrumentalists for the past three decades,” Kauffman said. The directors of the RSMI Program for Jazz had long dreamed of such a competition, having written many works combining jazz and classical music and players themselves.

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Sistema Ravinia Student Plays in National Take a Stand Festival Orchestra


A hundred young people between the ages of 12 and 17, representing the diversity and inclusivity that we long to see in classical music, performed together in a festival orchestra at the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Walt Disney Hall on Saturday, July 22. The orchestra comprised students from El Sistema–inspired programs around the country who were selected by audition, including one of Ravinia’s own—13-year-old Michael Robinson! The French horn player’s only access to music education has been through the Sistema Ravinia program at Catalyst Circle Rock School on Chicago’s West Side.
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Ravinia's Steans Institute Remembers David Baker

All of us at Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute are still in shock about the sudden death of David Baker last Saturday. David had led the RSMI Program for Jazz since its inception in 2000, so naturally he had developed a certain way he expected things to be done. When I became director of RSMI in 2010, I was in a constant whirlwind with all three of the programs, grasping for any bit of knowledge I could try to retain as I learned on the fly, so of course things didn’t run exactly as David was accustomed to, of course I dropped a few balls here and there. So when he showed up in my doorway

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Ravinia and Cuba exchange virtuosos

Nine months before Obama’s historic announcement last winter, Ravinia had already significantly connected with the government of Cuba. In March 2014 an ensemble of young chamber musicians, alumni of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute (the festival’s summer conservatory), performed in Havana’s Festival de Música de Cámara.

“We got very lucky. We met the right people at the right time,” Plonsker elaborates. “I see Ravinia as a leader. We got there on an official basis before any other group, and we are operating at a very high level of cultural exchange.”

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RSMI Alum Marquis Hill Wins International Accolade

Chicago native and 2010 Ravinia Steans Music Institute Jazz Alum, Marquis Hill, has taken top honors at the 2014 Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition. He adds this an already impressive streak over the last few years with his Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition win in 2013 and International Trumpet Guild Jazz Improvisation Competition in 2012. The win comes with a $25,000 music scholarship and guaranteed recording contract with Concord Music Group.

Marquis talked briefly about his time here as a fellow of the Ravinia Steans Music Institute Program for Jazz in the video celebrating 25 years of the Ravinia Steans Music Institute in 2013 below.

Associates Board's Music Matters Honors Kauffman, Supports Education

The Ravinia Associates Board will host its most important event, the annual Music Matters fundraising dinner, dance and auction at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 9, at Radisson Blu Aqua, 221 N. Columbus Drive, Chicago. Performing live will be one of Chicago’s most popular bands, the high-energy Maggie Speaks. Proceeds from this spirited black-tie event support the not-for-profit Ravinia Festival’s REACH*TEACH*PLAY education programs. Last year’s event grossed a record $494,214 for the programs, which reach 75,000 people in Cook and Lake Counties, largely in underserved Chicago Public Schools. Each year, a person or group who has made a tremendous impact on Ravinia’s education programs is honored at Music Matters. This year’s honoree will be the man who actually gave REACH*TEACH*PLAY its name, Welz Kauffman, who celebrates his 15th anniversary as President and CEO of Ravinia in 2015.

RSMI Alumna Joins 2015-16 Lyric Opera Of Chicago Ensemble

Every summer Ravinia's Steans Music Institute has the opportunity to work with a handful of talented musicians. Once they depart our program we make a point to keep in touch and are always excited to hear about their next milestones. With that in mind, we are happy to share the news that 2014 alumna Diana Newman has become part of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center Ensemble for the 2015-2016 season at the Lyric Opera of Chicago! Congratulations Diana! You can learn more about Ms. Newman on her website and by watching the video of her August 11, 2014 performance (below) of three songs by George Crumb in the Bennett Gordon Hall.

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Last Chance to Win Cash for Your School by Attending Ravinia's CSO Concerts for Free

The 2014 Chicago Symphony Orchestra residency is winding down. That means there are only a handful of opportunities left to give your high school a chance to win cash for its music program. All high-school students are admitted free to the lawn for CSO concerts, but those students should sign in at the box office before entering the park to earn a point for their school. The school with the most points at the end of the season will win $5,000, awarded by the Ravinia Associates Board.

For the first time in years, Highland Park High School is pressing its hometown advantage—here are the standings—but students can turn the tides by attending Don Giovanni on Aug. 14 and Aug. 16 or The Marriage of Figaro on Aug. 15 and Aug. 17.

Voices Carry From Canada to Ukraine

This week Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute (RSMI) welcomed 14 of the world’s most talented professional musicians to its summer conservatory program for singers. They’ve come from Australia, Canada, Germany, Norway, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and, of course, the United States. They will participate in a free, public master class with James Conlon at 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 1, in Bennett Gordon Hall. View a full list of concerts and master classes to be given by the RSMI class of 2014.

That Darned Tritone

Notions of which intervals in music are considered pleasing have certainly changed drastically ever since the first polyphony (more than one musical line at a time) emerged in Western music around 900 C.E. Medieval theorists had some very specific notions as to which combinations of sounds should be allowed and which should be avoided. And none was avoided more than the interval known as a tritone, so named because it comprises three whole steps—in the key of C Major (the white keys of the piano), it occurs between F and B. Theorists considered the interval to be unstable and dissonant, and for that reason it was avoided not only in harmony, but even in melodic lines for nearly a thousand years.

When music students first enter conservatory-type schools, they are traditionally required to take a course in “sight-singing,” a thorn in the side of many of music student, unless they possess “perfect pitch,” which is quite rare even among accomplished musicians. In order to identify and sing various intervals, many students learn them as part of a well-known melody. For instance, an ascending perfect fourth is the first two notes of “Here Comes the Bride”; an ascending major sixth is outlined by the first two notes of the iconic musical tag for “N-B-C.” And of course, different students might choose different melodies, depending on what they are most familiar with.

But the tritone? That’s a much harder one to find. And so virtually all music students learn an ascending tritone as being the first two notes of the song “Maria” from West Side Story

Was Bernstein, who composed that immortal score, purposely doing something that had once been “forbidden” to make some sort of a point? Dennis Polkow, who has written an article for Ravinia magazine on the musical, points out that it also occurs right at the beginning of the piece between the second and third notes of the little three-note signal that is played by the orchestra as well as whistled by the gang members. Perhaps it is meant to convey the “dissonance” between the warring factions of the Sharks and the Jets.

Or maybe it’s just Bernstein being his iconoclastic self, using whatever means he had at his disposal to achieve whatever effect he was aiming for. But one thing is certain: Most music students will never hear “Maria” the same way again.

Win Cash For Your High School Music Program

Not only do children and students through college receive free lawn admission to every classical concert at Ravinia, but high-school students could actually win cash for their school’s music program. Each time a student attends a CSO performance at the festival, his or her school earns a point. At the end of the season the school with the most points will receive a check for its music programs from the Ravinia Associates Board. Double points will be awarded at the Tchaikovsky Spectacular on July 27, when Ravinia’s student marketing team will host a free preconcert hangout with food and refreshment for all high-school students. Remember to check in at the box office to get your points.

Hobbit Resource Guide Available Now

Ravinia’s One Score, One Chicago initiative features a piece of symphonic music each year to be the focal point of a public conversation about the art and as a project to bring into schools through its REACH*TEACH*PLAY education programs.

This year’s One Score selection is Howard Shore’s Oscar-winning score to The Lord of the Rings—The Return of the King, and an original resource guide is available online now. With his Oscar-winning scores for the Lord of the Ringstrilogy, Howard Shore contributed the heartbeat if not the soul of those phenomenally successful films.

Ravinia concludes the trilogy this summer with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing the score to The Return of the King while the film is broadcast on video screens in the Pavilion and on the lawn on Aug. 7 and Aug. 8. Pavilion or lawn tickets are $25 each. Children and students will be admitted free to the lawn, but tickets must be reserved in advance.