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ESO History

Named “Orchestra of the Year” an unprecedented three times by the Illinois Council of Orchestras and winner of a 2010 Elgin Image Award, the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, now in its 64th 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 Juliard 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. In addition to working with the ESO to plan upcoming seasons, Maestro Grams, an audience favorite, will conduct seven concerts throughout the 2014-2015 season.

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, a children’s program which 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 Sherman Hospital in Elgin, twice each week. The Music Heals program with Alexian Brothers Health System, which began in December 2013, sees musicians perform twice per month for patients, families and staff at Alexian Brothers Medical Center, Alexian Brothers Women and Children’s Hospital, and St. Alexius Medical Center. 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.

The ESO’s 2014-15 season will include 25 concerts in Elgin and Schaumburg, drawing thousands of patrons from nearly 100 communities throughout Northern Illinois.

View the completed 2014-2015 Season concerts.