The Chicago Sinfonietta was founded by Maestro Paul Freeman in 1987 in response to the lack of opportunity for minority classical musicians, composers, and soloists. The orchestra remains a true trailblazer and a national model for classical music. Chicago Sinfonietta musicians truly represent the breadth of the city’s multi-cultural landscape, welcoming audiences from all walks of life.
Under the guidance of Music Director Emeritus Paul Freeman and now Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, the orchestra performs at the highest artistic level and has achieved an outstanding reputation for its innovative programs. The Sinfonietta is dedicated to the authentic performance of Classical, Romantic and Contemporary repertoire and excels at presenting imaginative new works by composers and soloists of color.
The Chicago Sinfonietta has a proud history of having enriched the cultural, educational, and social quality of life in Chicago, while gaining significant recognition on the national and international stage. The orchestra prides itself on programming one-of-a-kind performances that stretch the boundaries of classical music presentations. It performs at Chicago’s Symphony Center, Wentz Concert Hall at North Central College in Naperville, and the Harris Theater for Music and Dance at Millennium Park. The Chicago Sinfonietta is the official orchestra of the Joffrey Ballet.
During the first ten years of the Sinfonietta’s history, the orchestra embarked on six international tours performing concerts in Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and the Canary Islands. The Chicago Sinfonietta has produced fourteen compact discs, including the much heralded three-disc African Heritage Symphonic Series released on Cedille Records in 2002 and a live recording of the 2007 tribute concert to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The orchestra has performed twice at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
In August of 2008, the Chicago Sinfonietta made its Pritzker Pavilion debut to over 11,000 people with a multimedia performance of Gustav Holst’s The Planets accompanied by a video suite created by Adler Planetarium astronomer and artist José Francisco Salgado. With the announcement of Paul Freeman’s planned retirement in 2011, the organization conducted a two-year international search that resulted in the 2010 announcement of Mei-Ann Chen’s appointment. Maestro Freeman’s final season culminated with a national broadcast of his final performance on WFMT 98.7 FM that also featured Maestro Chen as co-conductor for the evening.
The 2011/12 season was the first under the baton of Maestro Mei-Ann Chen.