'An affirmation': Northbrook orchestra receives anonymous $1 million gift

  • Mina Zikri

    Mina Zikri

Updated 12/2/2021 6:27 PM

The Northbrook Symphony Orchestra has received an anonymous donation of $1 million, it announced Thursday.

The gift to the rare professional municipal orchestra will establish the Northbrook Symphony Orchestra Endowment Fund.


"It's an affirmation of our importance to the community," said James Karagianis, president of the symphony board. "It's a beginning for us to create an in-perpetuity type of fund to allow us to continue into the future as situations arise."

One of the goals of the endowment fund will be to focus on children as part of the family concert experience, and on their own musical appreciation and education.

Among the orchestra's outreach efforts is an ongoing instrument drive for underserved music students in Waukegan public schools and funding for the students to continue their music education over summer vacation. It also provides scholarships to music students at Glenbrook North High School.

"We think that classical music is a gift to children of the community -- all of the children," Karagianis said. "It allows them to connect and achieve something on their own that they can be very proud of. It reforms their identity and, in many cases, it changes the arc of their lives."

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Along with patron subscriptions, much of the orchestra's funding comes from several family foundations, sponsors including Allstate and Underwriters Laboratories, as well as the Rotary Club of Northbrook and the village of Northbrook, Karagianis said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic last season, the symphony -- led by Music Director Mina Zikri since 2019 -- streamed live performances to its patrons; it also broadcast performances to more than 4,000 students and first responders for free.

The symphony now has resumed live, in-person concerts at the Sheely Center for the Performing Arts, 2300 Shermer Road, and will continue its 42nd season Sunday, Feb. 27, with "Classical Treasures," featuring works by Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Concert Master Robert Chen joined the orchestra this season as an artistic creative partner -- "which, in fact, is quite an endorsement," Karagianis said. "Now that we've been endorsed professionally from a performance standpoint by Robert Chen, and (the endowment), is a signal that we're here to stay."

The Northbrook Symphony was founded in 1980 by former CSO concertmaster Samuel Magad and transitioned to a professional orchestra from a community orchestra during the tenure of Music Director Lawrence Rapchak, appointed in 2001.

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