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Evanston Symphony Orchestra And ESO Board Past-Pres. Margaret Gergen Receive 2024 Awards From The Illinois Council Of Orchestras

Evanston Symphony Orchestra And ESO Board Past-Pres. Margaret Gergen Receive 2024 Awards From The Illinois Council Of Orchestras

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                 

June 12, 2024

Evanston Symphony Orchestra And ESO Board Past-Pres. Margaret Gergen Receive 2024 Awards From The Illinois Council Of Orchestras

Evanston, Ill.—The Evanston Symphony Orchestra and its Board of Directors’ Past Pres. Margaret Gergen have been honored with major 2024 awards from the Illinois Council of Orchestras. The ESO was named “Orchestra of the Year” in the community orchestra category. Gergen received the “Board President of the Year” Award. 

In naming the ESO the community “Orchestra of the Year,” the Council noted the symphony’s high standards of performance, its creative and adventurous programming, and its extensive outreach to the Evanston and North Shore communities. This includes youth education programs such as “Music in our World,” a biennial young persons’ concert, an annual holiday concert that prominently features other local music and dance groups, and a free outdoor summer concert. 

Gergen, who led the ESO board from 2019 through 2023, was recognized not only for her leadership during the challenging Covid pandemic—the ESO didn’t perform for 18 months and had no concert revenues for nearly two years—but also for her skillful management of the disruption caused by the sudden and unexpected passing of the ESO’s long-time General Manager David Ellis. Gergen worked with other board members to maintain financial reporting, and spearheaded efforts to hire an interim GM who helped the organization weather the first season following Ellis’ loss, and current GM Michelle Pranger.

The ICO represents community, youth and other nonprofessional orchestras and chamber ensembles in Illinois. The awards are presented annually after review by a panel of judges drawn from the Council’s board of directors and independent professional musicians representing orchestras, youth orchestras, and chamber ensembles from throughout Illinois.

The City of Evanston's Mayor Daniel Biss presenting a proclamation declaring June 2024 "Evanston Symphony Orchestra Month" to Maestro Lawrence Eckerling.

ESO Music Director Lawrence Eckerling, commenting on the “Orchestra of the Year” award, said, “It’s an honor and a privilege to be part of the ESO that was recognized with a ‘Community Orchestra of the Year’ award. This award is only possible with a complete team effort by the artistic, administrative and governance sides of the organization. And we all are inspired because of our wonderful audiences and the community that supports us.”  

Suzanne Nelson, current president of the ESO board of directors, said, “The entire ESO organization is excited and honored to receive these recognitions from the Illinois Council of Orchestras. We are proud of our diverse programming that connects us with the Evanston community, and beyond. Join us next season to experience the joy of music!”

Commenting on her “Board President of the Year” award, Gergen said, "I am deeply honored and greatly humbled by this recognition. It is an award truly shared by the entire ESO board as all members 'upped their game' in response to each difficult situation as it arose. I am indebted to all of them for their efforts and support. An orchestra that plays at the level of the Evanston Symphony is easy to be enthusiastic about and to want to do all one can to contribute to its success."

The ESO previously received the community division “Orchestra of the Year” award in 2017. Former Board of Directors’ Pres. Vince Flood was presented the “Board President of the Year” award in 2018.       

Information on the ESO’s 2024-2025 season and programs is available at the Symphony’s website ESO ( One can also subscribe the next season’s subscription concerts on the site or by calling 847-864-8804. Donations to the ESO can be made through the website and by phone.

Founded in 1945, the Evanston Symphony is the 2024 Illinois Council of Orchestras’ “Orchestra of the Year” and in 2019 was honored by the Council for “Community Relations of the Year” for its significant outreach to the Evanston community. The ESO uses the power of music to lift the human spirit. We engage and enrich the community by coming together to perform, inspire and educate.

The Illinois Council of Orchestras was founded in 1974 with a mission:

• To encourage, promote, and assist orchestras throughout the State of Illinois

• To promote an exchange of information among members, including providing consultants and speakers

• To hold educational conferences for member organizations, including musicians, staff, boards, volunteers, and audiences.

Presentation of the ICO Awards will take place through July 2025 to the winning orchestras and individuals. Information about the Illinois Council of Orchestras can be found at, and a list of other 2024 award winners is available at 


Margaret Gergen