Volunteer Q&A: Sue Bridge

Sue Bridge, president of the League of the CSOA, greets attendees at the annual Fall in Love with Music luncheon in November 2019.

Anne Ryan

What inspires your love of music, and what drew you to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra?

It all started in my childhood home, where I was blessed to be surrounded by music. While not a professional musician, my father had studied violin all his life and continued playing with community orchestras until he was 93. Whether he was practicing in my parents’ bedroom or was playing classical records on our exciting new “stereo,” our house was filled with music. While I was not quite sure who “Fritz Reiner” was, I learned at our dinner table that he and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra were sources of awe for my father. My brother played oboe, clarinet and saxophone and competed for use of the turntable so he could explore the world of jazz. Eager to participate and contribute, I began studying piano, flute and ballet and am so happy that I did!

While I now listen more than perform, what music adds to my life continues to intensify with each visit to Symphony Center. My earliest childhood memory is lying across my mother’s lap in the first balcony of Orchestra Hall, counting the beautiful lightbulbs on that amazing ceiling while my father played concerts with the Chicago Businessmen’s Orchestra. Decades later, I sit in that very same hall, listening to the musical magic of the world’s greatest symphony orchestra, not only comprehending but now sharing my father’s awe.

Why did you decide to join the League?

A colleague and dear friend from work knew that I loved classical music. When I retired, she correctly assumed that I would be seeking meaningful and enjoyable activities now that I had the luxury of some free time. She was a member of the League and especially enjoyed the League’s Adventures in Music program for young children and their parents. She invited me to join her for one of their Saturday mornings of musical activities and culminating CSO concerts. I spent that morning with the AIM volunteers, watching and listening to these delighted children as they engaged in musical exploration throughout the Rotunda and experienced the enchantment of their first live concert. The volunteers were having as much fun as the kids. I was hooked. I joined the League!

What is one of the most fulfilling activities or events that you’ve been part of during your time with the League?

One of the League’s signature events is our annual Fall in Love with Music program, featuring a world-renowned musician or conductor. In the fall of 2019, we were deeply honored to welcome Maestro Muti accept our invitation to be our featured guest for the 10th anniversary of this League event. The Lincoln Ballroom at the Union League Club was filled to capacity and was reverentially quiet as Maestro Muti settled in his chair on stage. The silence quickly ended as he leaned forward and began to share tales of his childhood, his musical journey and his relationship with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. We laughed a good deal, we teared up and we wanted him to go on forever. For me, this League event was one of my most fulfilling because it provided our members and guests the singular opportunity to witness endearing qualities of our beloved maestro that made us love him all the more!

How have you kept music part of your life over the past year?

My responsibilities as president of the League of the CSOA have required and ensured that music is integral to my daily life this past year! Our members have been working tirelessly to imagine, design and implement new “virtual” ways for our members to pursue our mission of promoting the appreciation for symphonic music, encouraging a commitment to music education and raising funds for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. These events have offered our members the chance not only to experience superb musical performances but also to hear from and interact with members of the CSO and CSOA staff in ways that have made us feel an even greater closeness to the CSO family. (I have also been able to serve as my granddaughter’s practice accompanist as she pursues her violin studies. And that certainly puts music into my days!)

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