Dr. Steve Andes commemorates loved ones through philanthropy

Dr. Steve Andes, a CSOA donor and member of the Theodore Thomas Society, on vacation in St. Joseph, Michigan

Sallie B. Kraus

For Dr. Steve Andes, supporting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association offers a meaningful way to commemorate family and friends who have shared his love of music over the years. As a member of the Theodore Thomas Society — the CSOA’s group for planned giving donors — he honors his mother, who introduced him to classical music as a child. His annual donations to the Civic Orchestra of Chicago are likewise inspired by a late friend who used to attend Civic concerts with him.

Andes’ earliest memories of music include attending the CSO’s concerts for children, performances at the Grant Park Music Festival and opera productions. He often would be accompanied by his mother, who was a classically trained pianist. As a teenager, he continued to develop his musical interests. “While other kids listened to the popular music of the day, I was listening to the popular music of the Baroque era,” he said in a recent interview.

Throughout his adulthood, music has remained an important part of his life. In addition to attending various events at Symphony Center — including the CSO Classical series, preconcert lectures, the CSO MusicNOW series and Civic Orchestra concerts — Andes enjoys performances by Music of the Baroque and Apollo’s Fire. “I don’t go to bars; I don’t have Netflix,” he said. “I spend my discretionary income on concerts.”

With an open mind and eclectic tastes, Andes is always willing to lend an attentive ear to contemporary music and new interpretations of classics. He recalls once hearing Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti remark upon the fact that no one knows precisely how composers such as Bach or Mozart would have performed or conducted their own music, since audio recording technology of course was not available in their lifetimes. Interpretations of the same piece of music may vary widely among different performers, conductors and time periods — or even from night to night when performed by the same orchestra. Andes welcomes such variety, eschewing the idea that there is one “right” approach to music.

He also appreciates seeing the next generation hone their skills through the Civic Orchestra, the CSOA’s training ensemble for young professional musicians. Since he began attending Civic concerts years ago, “the quality has gone through the roof,” he said. After the passing of Gary A. Davis, the friend who used to accompany him to these performances, Andes chose to commemorate him by supporting the ensemble. “I said Kaddish for a year after Gary’s death, and every year I write a check to the Civic Orchestra in his memory,” he said.

In addition, he honors the memories of his late parents through philanthropy in fields that were meaningful to them. Along with supporting the CSOA, Andes has established a scholarship in his mother’s name at the Ravinia Steans Music Institute, a prestigious fellowship program for early-career string players, pianists, singers and jazz musicians. “I view these young musicians as my mother’s grandchildren,” he said. “They carry on her musical legacy.” Andes has also funded a graduate fellowship in his father’s name at the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology.

Andes has included the CSOA in his estate plans, and therefore is a member of the Theodore Thomas Society, which provides exclusive benefits for planned giving donors. He considers planned giving an important way to ensure the future success of this life-enriching art form. “Music brings me so much joy,” he said. “The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a crown jewel of our city.”