The Elgin Symphony Orchestra is one of the preeminent regional orchestras in the United States. Since its founding in 1950, the organization has developed a reputation for artistic excellence, innovative programming, and a deep commitment to the social advocacy and economic development of the diverse communities that it serves.
Named “Orchestra of the Year” an unprecedented four times by the Illinois Council of Orchestras, (1988,1999, 2005 and 2016) and winner of a 2010 Elgin Image Award, the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, now in its 67th season, is respected for exceptional performance, innovative education programs, and community outreach initiatives.
Founded in 1950 by Douglas Steensland at Elgin Community College, the Orchestra has benefited from the contributions of many talented conductors and musicians during its sixty-three year history. With the appointment of Grammy Award-winning conductor Margaret Hillis as Music Director in 1971, the Orchestra’s artistic growth advanced significantly. The Orchestra became fully professional in 1985 under the direction of conductor/composer Robert Hanson, who was named Music Director earlier that year. Maestro Hanson held the position until his retirement at the conclusion of the 2010-2011 concert season.
In 2013, after a two year international search in which over 250 applicants were reviewed, Andrew Grams was selected as the new Music Director of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. A graduate of the Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music, Grams is one of America’s most promising and talented young conductors, as well as an accomplished violinist.
Believing music and the arts have the power to inspire individuals, support communities, and enrich society, the ESO launched Elgin: Home for the Holidays, and has partnered on other events with Rotary International, Feeding Greater Elgin, Sherman Hospital, Downtown Neighborhood Association, and local Chamber of Commerce. In 1987, the ESO began Kidz Konzertz, now called Ainsworth Concerts for Youth, a children’s program that now draws nearly 9,000 youth from nearly 60 communities. The ESO Musicians Care Program, which began in 2010, takes musicians out of the concert hall and into the public and patient spaces of Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin every Thursday, including holidays, from 12-2 pm. In addition, our musicians visit Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington every first and third Wednesdays from 12-2 pm. In 2014, the ESO partnered with Gail Borden Public Library to provide free Family Concerts, and extended its Listeners Club to the Greenfields of Geneva.