Backstage at the CSO: Dana Navarro, communications/PR manager

Dana Navarro, communications and public relations manager

© Todd Rosenberg Photography

A lifelong love of music and a natural talent for writing set Dana Navarro on a career path toward her current role: Communications and Public Relations Manager at the CSOA. With a wide range of duties, from coordinating social media content to working with journalists who cover the CSOA’s many concerts and events, “there are so many parts of my job that I find rewarding,” Navarro says.

How long have you been working for the CSOA?

After participating in an internship with the CSOA more than 20 years ago, I returned three years ago to assume my current position as Communications and Public Relations Manager.

Could you describe your job duties?

One of the things I love about my current role is that I have a lot of variety in the kind of projects I work on and things that I do. One major part of my job is to work with journalists who write about and cover Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Center Presents and Civic Orchestra concerts, as well as Negaunee Music Institute news and major events organized by our volunteer groups. Another big part of my job is to coordinate and help create content for our social media channels.

How did you choose a career in the field of communications and public relations?

In many ways, a career in communications and PR chose me. When I was a teenager trying to figure out where I was going to attend college and what major I would pursue, I was deeply torn between two paths — journalism and music. Music was my true love, and writing was my natural talent. When it came down to it, I realized that no matter how hard I worked at it, I would never win a chair with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or one of its peers. However, words effortlessly flowed into news reports and feature stories, and I was getting national recognition in journalism competitions. Ultimately, I decided to study both journalism and music education in college.

Could you describe your background as a musician?

One day when I was 10 years old, I came home from school and was presented with a clarinet by my mother, who announced I was going to take lessons at school and join the band. During that first year, as I learned elementary arrangements of melodies by Beethoven, Mozart and Dvořák, I remember thinking to myself that I was learning to play “real music.” I was so hooked that I convinced one of my classmates who was learning the flute to teach me everything she learned in her lesson each day as we were riding the school bus home. The excitement I felt about music when I was 10 years old has never faded, and I feel fortunate that I have been able to make Mozart, Beethoven and Mahler a part of my everyday life through my job with the CSO.

What’s one of the most rewarding parts of your job?

There are so many parts of my job that I find rewarding, but toward the top of the list would be the opportunity to work with CSO musicians and guest artists to create video content to be shared on our social media channels. It is definitely gratifying to post a video on social media and then see the number of views, likes, shares and comments grow to the tens, and even hundreds, of thousands. But even more than that, I want as many people as possible to experience the artistry and insight of the musicians who perform in Orchestra Hall. Even if these videos provide only a nugget of what happens here every day, I hope they help bring the music and musicians closer to the viewer.

Do you have a favorite concert or memory from your time at the CSOA?

For good reason, there is a lot of attention on programs that feature the CSO and Maestro Muti performing the repertoire of Verdi and other Italian composers. However, I think their performances of Mozart are underrated. Mozart was another composer who greatly appreciated the human voice, and he wrote music that was meant to be sung. Each instrument across every section makes their part sing like the voice — the timbre, the phrasing, the touch, all of it. When Muti and the CSO perform Mozart, I like to think that Mozart would smile at the sound they produce and think, “I did a good job with that one.”

I also have to mention a particular moment that was memorable. As dusk fell on Millennium Park, where more than 20,000 Chicagoans came out to hear Yo-Yo Ma perform the Bach Cello Suites last summer, I felt two things. First of all, I felt proud of Chicago. I had no idea that there were 20,000 people here who cared enough about classical music to come out on a chilly evening to sit on the grass and listen to one person play 2.5 hours of music. Chicago, you continually impress me. The second thing I felt was grateful. I felt grateful for the contributions of three particular people: 1) Pablo Casals for rediscovering this music and bringing it to the public’s attention, 2) Yo-Yo Ma for furthering the attention on this music and using it to connect cultures and inspire shared visions, and 3) J.S. Bach for his musical genius that has influenced virtually all of the music that we know and love. That single concert was a once-in-a-lifetime experience of powerful stuff.

Which concert(s) are you looking forward to in the 2020/21 season?

It is hard to pick a single concert I am most anticipating, but there is a CSO program Nov. 5-8 of American music that tells the stories of a diverse array of people and ideals. We get to hear the work of two female composers, Florence Price’s Ethiopia’s Shadow in America and the world premiere of a new work by Gabriela Lena Frank. Then we are treated to two gems by Aaron Copland, followed by a couple ditties by Leonard Bernstein. The only thing that could make this program sweeter is a little Gershwin.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

In my spare time I enjoy cooking (mostly) healthy meals, reading, playing tennis, running along the lakefront (when Lori Lightfoot lets me), watching Indiana University basketball (this past season was especially trying on us fans), exploring Chicago’s restaurant scene and experiencing music at many of the other wonderful venues in town. I also enjoy eating butter, especially French butter.