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Wonderful Notes with the ESO over 75 Years

Wonderful Notes with the ESO over 75 Years

1945. World War II was winding down in both Europe and the Pacific. Rationing was still in effect until after VJ Day in August, so a cup of coffee cost 20 cents—but students on a frayed shoestring budget knew that you always bought two 5-cent White Castle burgers instead of one 10-cent double-meat burger: You got twice as much bread!

In the arts, Animal Farm, Black Boy and Pippi Longstocking, appeared in bookstores. John Wayne battled the enemy in Back to Bataan, and Gene Kelly danced with Jerry Mouse in Anchors Aweigh. Doris Day sang Sentimental Journey at the top of the charts, and Aaron Copland won the Pulitzer Prize for his Appalachian Spring.

On the home front, an influx of veterans on the G.I. Bill meant there were no longer places for local musicians in Northwestern’s orchestras. Into this void stepped a group of enthusiastic, talented musicians to form what became the Evanston Symphony Orchestra, which gave its premiere concert on Nov. 4, 1945. Over the next 17 years, the ESO had a succession of conductors, including Hans Heniot, former conductor of the Utah Symphony and Sidney Harth, Concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 1962, the baton passed to the legendary Frank Miller, principal cellist of the CSO, who conducted the Evanston Symphony for the next 22 years. Under Miller’s leadership, the ESO grew in size, quality, and reputation.

Declining health caused Frank Miller to retire in 1984. His successor, Dr. Lynn Schornick, led the ESO for the next 17 years, stepping down in 2002 to concentrate his efforts on the burgeoning arts scene in his then hometown of Waukegan, as Conductor of the Waukegan Symphony Orchestra and Director of the Jack Benny Center for the Arts, as well as being greatly involved with local opera and the renovation of the Genesee Theatre.

Lawrence Eckerling, Dr. Schornick’s replacement, was Music Director of the St. Cloud Symphony in Minnesota for 16 years, is on the faculty of the Music Institute of Chicago, and since 1984, has been leader and pianist of Larry Eckerling and his Orchestra. From the moment he had the audience howling with laughter at his audition concert to his ability to schedule top soloists and his own incredible performance as both conductor and soloist in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Maestro Eckerling has proven himself to be the perfect leader of a truly community orchestra. The ESO has been playing to packed houses in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall and will resume our tenure there when this pandemic is well and truly behind us. Stay tuned!

SHOP and Support the ESO!

Are you looking to buy a gift for someone at Amazon? Need to stock up on supplies from Amazon?

Amazon has a special program called Smile, where the company donates a small amount of your purchase to your designated charity. Once you select the ESO as your Smile recipient, just point your browser to smile.amazon.com each time you want to shop at Amazon and the Evanston Symphony will benefit. It won’t cost you a thing!

Thanks, and happy shopping.

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