Dora and John Aalbregtse, longtime supporters of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, currently serve, respectively, as the Women’s Board chair and Board of Trustees chair of the annual Symphony Ball on September 24, 2022.
In addition to serving on the Women’s Board, Dora is a Governing Member and previously was a member of the League of the CSOA. John was elected to the CSOA Board of Trustees in 2014 and currently chairs the Development Committee, as well as serving on the Executive Committee, Facilities Committee, Negaunee Music Institute (NMI) Board and NMI Finance Committee.
The Aalbregtses are also members of the Theodore Thomas Society and have traveled with the CSO on several Patron Tours. In 2020, they endowed the Dora and John Aalbregtse Piccolo Chair as part of SEMPRE ALWAYS: The Campaign for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
In a recent interview, they shared their plans for this season’s Symphony Ball.
You both have been involved with many areas of the CSOA over the years. Why did you choose to take on the roles of Symphony Ball co-chairs this year?
Dora: We were approached a few years ago and offered some dates to co-chair, and we had prior commitments, so this year was a wonderful opportunity to chair the ball for Maestro Muti’s final year as music director for the CSO. We were very happy to do it this year.
John: It’s quite an opportunity to celebrate his tenure here.
What makes Symphony Ball such a special event, and why is it important for CSOA family members to support it?
John: It’s both a celebration of the new season and the largest single fundraiser of the year, so it’s really important for members of the CSO family to provide support every year. And, as Dora mentioned, this year is particularly important as it’s the celebration of Maestro Muti’s final season as music director. While it’s important every year, for this one in particular, we hope patrons who enjoy the symphony are able to join us and support the event.
Could you tell me about the plans for this season’s Symphony Ball?
Dora: In planning the ball, we of course wanted to reflect celebration, but also, very importantly, the elegance and sophistication that embody the Maestro and his 13-year tenure as music director. Celebration, elegance and sophistication are the themes carried throughout the planning and throughout the event.
Depending on which level of ticket that you purchase, for some there will be a private, preconcert cocktail hour, and then, of course, there’s the wonderful program that has been chosen by Maestro Muti and [Vice President for Artistic Planning] Cristina Rocca. After the concert, gala patrons will move on to the Four Seasons Hotel, where we will have a surprise — it’s going to be a little bit different than other years. They will be seeing some history of the past 13 years, and then we will have dinner and dancing, but the after-party is going to be a big surprise.
John: Also, preconcert, everyone will be offered champagne, and for certain levels there’s a private reception in Buntrock Hall prior to the concert.
What are your respective responsibilities as Women’s Board chair and Board of Trustees chair?
Dora: This is a Women’s Board event, and I’m working with the Women’s Board committee on all the activities, from invitations, design, décor and menu to the actual event programming and fundraising.
John: And then the Trustee portion of this is really to encourage attendance both within the Trustees as well as from corporations in Chicago, and to, very importantly, gain financial support to meet our goal, which is in excess of $1 million.
For patrons who love the CSO but haven’t attended Symphony Ball before, what would you say to encourage them to come this season?
Dora: It’s a special celebration, but particularly this year, with Maestro Muti in his final season as music director. And every year, it’s just a fun musical extravaganza. It’s filled with wonderful music, preconcert cocktails and a very specially chosen concert, and then there’s going to be dinner and dancing at the Four Seasons. And as I mentioned earlier, it’s a different event this year, post-dinner.
John: It’s also a fun opportunity to see other members of the CSO family. It’s really good to get together and to see all the people, to enjoy the celebration and to have the opportunity to meet and greet a lot of different people that you may not have seen in the last year or two.
Dora: Including the CSO musicians, because some musicians also attend the dinner. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet and have a chance to talk with them in person.
Is there anything else about Symphony Ball that you’d like to share?
John: For people who have been to Symphony Ball before, we’re going to do the transportation [from Symphony Center to the Four Seasons and back] a bit differently. We’re going to have closed buses in case it unfortunately rains or there is inclement weather. It may seem like a minor detail, but I think people who have gone to the ball a number of times can relate to it.
Dora: And I hope the color scheme reflects celebration, but also what we think and value of Maestro Muti, which is his elegance and sophistication — but even more so, his love of music and love of sharing and talking about music with us.
John: We also decided that — while it’s important to celebrate and support the CSO — in particular, we’re going to highlight some of the things that the CSO does in support of the community. Because that’s another aspect of Maestro Muti’s tenure — that he’s always been reaching out into the community to bring music to people who don’t have access to it, or can’t access it very often, or people that are incarcerated. We’re trying to bring that aspect in as well.
Could you share a personal memory of the CSO that’s especially meaningful to you (not necessarily related to Symphony Ball)?
John: We’ve had the opportunity to travel with the CSO over the years, and I think my favorite memory of the CSO was on one of the trips that happened to be over our anniversary. It was a surprise — we sat down and were going to have dinner, and then John Hagstrom stood up and serenaded us with a wonderful trumpet solo in celebration. That’s been a really memorable event from the CSO as I look back over many years.
Dora: I think joining the CSO family on trips is just a unique CSO experience, and, most importantly, to see how the CSO is so enthusiastically welcomed and exalted around the world is heartwarming and very special. We have this great orchestra here in Chicago, and we get to hear it throughout the year, so Chicago’s very fortunate.
John: I’d like to echo that Chicago’s so fortunate to have the CSO, and Symphony Ball, to me, is a great way to celebrate and support our wonderful Orchestra. Again, when we think about all the things we’ve done and all the experiences with the CSO, we are so fortunate, and this is just one more fun way to support the CSO.