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Chicago Symphony gets $21M Negaunee gift for education, wide range of other programs

Submitted by on Mar 8, 2024 – 12:13 pm

CSO flutist Emma Gerstein makes a close-up connection with children at a CSO for Kids Once Upon a Symphony program. (Todd Rosenberg photos)

Report: Donation is one of largest in the orchestra’s history. CSO  board chair says the gift reflects ‘tremendous civic leadership.’
By Lawrence B. Johnson

The Chicago-based Negaunee Foundation, a longtime donor of major grants to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and its diverse educational program, has made a new $21 million gift to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association. It is one of the largest single donations the CSO has ever received.

Focused on education and community programs, The Negaunee Foundation has been a key supporter of a wide range of CSO projects from the Chicago Symphony itself to Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Chicago Symphony Chorus, Negaunee Music Institute and Symphony Center Presents. The new gift also includes operating funds for concert sponsorships and special artistic projects in the current and upcoming seasons.

Percussion Scholarship Program participants perform on stage in Orchestra Hall.

“The impact of The Negaunee Foundation’s transformational gift ensures that young musicians and communities in Chicago, around the country and across the world will remain connected to the extraordinary musical and educational resources of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,” said CSOA president Jeff Alexander. “The CSOA expresses its sincere gratitude to The Negaunee Foundation for this exceptional generosity and vision that will sustain our inspiring and effective programs well into the future.”

CSOA Board chair Mary Louise Gorno added: “The Negaunee Foundation demonstrates tremendous civic leadership with this support. Chicago greatly benefits from donors like The Negaunee Foundation, who recognize the power of the arts to improve lives and connect us in meaningful ways. We celebrate their ongoing commitment to this important work.”

Civic Orchestra members interact with students at a Chicago public school.

Since the 1990s, The Negaunee Foundation has provided the Chicago Symphony with leadership gifts for education and community programs and overall operating support for CSO concerts and other programs. In 2014, the Foundation made a $15 million gift to endow the CSO’s formerly named Institute for Learning, Access and Training, which was renamed The Negaunee Music Institute at that time.

Since then, the Foundation has regularly provided substantial support for the CSOA, including a $10 million gift in 2022 to increase the endowment fund and sponsor CSO concert programs with a wide variety of noted artists. The Negaunee Music Institute connects people to the extensive musical resources of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Institute programs educate audiences, train young musicians and serve diverse communities across Chicago and elsewhere.

Civic conductor Ken-David Masur with the 2023 Chicago Youth in Music Festival Orchestra.

Signature programs of the Negaunee Music Institute include CSO for Kids Concerts and School Partnerships that annually engage more than 25,000 children pre-K through grade12, especially within Chicago Public Schools. Other beneficiaries include the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and its innovative fellowship program, various other musician training programs such as the Chicago Youth in Music Festival and the Young Composers Initiative introduced by CSO Mead Composer-in-Residence Jessie Montgomery in 2022.

Negaunee-assisted programs also include the CSO Percussion Scholarship Program as well as education and community engagement activities on CSO tours and Notes for Peace, a social impact initiative that supports parents who have lost children to gun violence.

CSO for Kids school concerts are attended by more than 25,000 young people annually.