Laurie Berg has been a CSO subscriber for more than fifty years and a CSO donor and volunteer for more than thirty years. An original board member of the Women’s Association (now the League of the CSOA), she has served as an event host, secretary, and coordinator for numerous CSO events and volunteer programs. Born and raised in Chicago, Laurie is a retired piano teacher and currently lives in Skokie. She serves on the board of the Bel Canto Foundation and remains a Sustaining Member of the League of the CSOA.
What inspires your love of music?
I’ve always had a love for classical music. I started playing piano when I was five years old. After high school, the most wonderful piano teacher at DePaul University School of Music was recommended to me. I was fortunate enough to study piano with Herman Shapiro, one of the CSO’s Theodore Thomas Society benefactors.
What brought you to the CSO for the first time?
I was a student at DePaul University in 1957. The School of Music was on Jackson and Wabash—it has since moved to the Lincoln Park campus. I used to go to CSO concerts on Friday afternoons when I was in school. It was a great perk to go to school downtown next door to a cultural institution like this. I met my husband, a law student at DePaul, in the music building. He thought piano would be a fun break from studying. We got married in 1961 and bought our first subscription together.
How did you become a volunteer?
In 1976, I helped with the very first Radiothon held at the old WFMT studios on Michigan Avenue. I had volunteered at Ravinia from 1969 through the 1970s, so I was already very familiar with the CSO. A wonderful friend of mine asked me to help the CSO in the Radiothon and join the Women’s Association, now known as the League. I got my sister to join me—I always like to get a lot of people to volunteer with me so I don’t have to do it alone! It was a great experience, and I’ve been involved ever since.
What keeps you coming back to the CSO?
The lifelong friends I made volunteering make it such a joy—almost fifty years of friendship! It was contagious coming to volunteer here. Every time there was something going on, or some project to do, I’d bring people with me. I look forward to being with old friends. Volunteering together alongside the staff, all working to support the music—that made beautiful friendships that still exist. Symphony Center is like coming home.
What is your favorite memory as a volunteer?
The Musicians’ Luncheon was always one of my favorites. It allows incredible access to the musicians. You’ve seen them on stage and now they’re sitting next to you and talking in a comfortable way—as equals. They’re grateful to us for the work we do to support them, and we’re grateful to them for the beautiful gift of music they share.
Any advice for new audience members?
Take advantage of the box office staff—they’re so helpful. If you want to go to any concert, they stand on their head to get you in! If you’re here for the day, or people are traveling in, stop by or call and they’ll have great recommendations for you. And the ushers—they do everything they can to help people. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been coming here for fifty years or you’ve never been before. Consider volunteering or getting a subscription. Supporting the CSO in a smaller way, any way you can, really matters. You can be supportive by just coming here.
To learn more about the CSO’s volunteer programs, please call Lisa McDaniel, director of donor engagement, at 312-294-3161.