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ESO Music Director Named Illinois ‘Conductor of the Year’

ESO Music Director Named Illinois ‘Conductor of the Year’

The Illinois Council of Orchestras (ICO) has named Evanston Symphony Orchestra Music Director Lawrence Eckerling its 2014 Conductor of the Year.

“The following criteria were used in the competitive evaluation for Conductor of the Year: innovation in programming and soloist selection, personal involvement in community, relationship with musicians and board and quality of performances,” said Gregory Clemons, director, ICO awards program. “Maestro Eckerling was deemed by the committee to have the highest level achievement in each of these areas.”

Mr. Eckerling, celebrating his 11th season leading the ESO, said: “I am thrilled by this recognition. But in addition to honoring me, it honors the hard work, growth and very high caliber of the ESO musicians and their music-making. It’s really a dual honor.”

The ESO’s president, Suzanne Torrey, said: “We are excited that Larry has received this honor. His programming, enthusiasm, discipline, hard work and artistic excellence have helped the orchestra to achieve its present level of orchestral excellence.”

In it nomination statement to the ICO, the Evanston Symphony said of Mr. Eckerling:

“Under his leadership during these last ten seasons, the ESO has increased audiences, maintained financial stability, improved musicianship, expanded repertoire and engaged in innovative collaborations. Conductors sometimes come and go. Eckerling is firmly committed to the ESO and has overseen and ‘orchestrated’ its musical growth, successfully challenging both players and audiences to more sophisticated and often, less well-known, repertoire as well as several world or local premieres of works.

Prior to his tenure with the Evanston Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Eckerling served as Music Director and Conductor of the St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra in Minnesota from 1986 to 2002. Earlier, he was Assistant Conductor of the Omaha Symphony, and Music Director and Conductor of the Omaha Area Youth Orchestra. In 1980, he founded the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra of Chicago, which performed a series of free Music Performance Trust Fund concerts.

Born in Chicago, Mr. Eckerling grew up in Skokie and began his piano lessons when he was six in the Primary Piano Department at Northwestern University Music School. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Music Education (in both instrumental and choral) at Indiana University, and completed his Masters in orchestral and Opera conducting from the same institution.

Mr. Eckerling is an active pianist, having performed as guest artist in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the Mt. Prospect Community Band and the St. Cloud Symphony. He also performed the piece in 2011 with the ESO, while conducting from the piano. That performance is available on the CD “Evanston Symphony Live!”

He has performed regularly with the Chicago-based Duetri Ensemble and is also active in the jazz and pop fields. Since 1984, as leader of Larry Eckerling and His Orchestra, and more recently as owner and president of the Momentum Talent Group, he has been presenting live music from classical to rock and roll for private functions throughout the Chicago area. He is on the faculty of the Music Institute of Chicago, where he is Conductor of the Community Symphony and Quartet Strings.

Mr. Eckerling lives in Glenview with his wife, Sharon, and their son, Jeremy.