Symphony Ball returns with a festive spring gala

When guests gather for Symphony Ball on April 2, 2022, it will have been more than two and a half years since the Women’s Board of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association last hosted its signature event in person. To celebrate the gala's return, the planning committee aims to throw a party that will leave smiles on guests’ faces while raising funds to benefit the CSOA’s artistic, educational and community engagement programs.

Due to pandemic restrictions in the 2020/21 Season, the Women’s Board developed a virtual program titled Sounds of Celebration: An Evening at Home with the CSO in lieu of Symphony Ball. Exceeding its financial goal, Sounds of Celebration raised more than $920,000 for the CSOA.

Energized by this success and eager to welcome guests back to Symphony Center, a leadership team that includes Women’s Board members Judy Feldman, Shelley Ochab, Ruthie Ryan, Cynthia Scholl, Courtney Shea and Kim Shepherd and CSOA Trustee Renée Metcalf is working diligently to plan the April 2022 event, which is supported by Northern Trust as presenting sponsor. With its spring setting, early evening start time and suggested cocktail attire, this Symphony Ball will be a “very festive and joyful” occasion with a somewhat less formal feel than previous years, said Feldman.

Guests will enjoy a preconcert VIP reception in Buntrock Hall at Symphony Center, followed by a concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti conducting works by Mozart, Liszt and Rossini. Elīna Garanča, a mezzo-soprano who “possesses one of the most beautiful voices in opera” (The New York Times) will join the CSO and Muti to sing Mahler’s radiant Rückert-Lieder. Dinner and dancing — with music by popular local band Gentlemen of Leisure — will follow the concert at the Four Seasons Hotel, with transportation provided for guests.

As a key component of the CSOA’s annual fundraising, Symphony Ball is one of the Women’s Board’s most important responsibilities. “I think that people recognize that when they’re coming to something like [Symphony Ball], of course they want a good time, but they’re really doing it because of their love for the music, for the Orchestra and because they want to help sustain that in Chicago,” Feldman said. By supporting Symphony Ball, patrons will help to strengthen “not only our symphony, but our wonderful outreach programs around the city, around the country and around the world,” she added.

“Rebounding and responding to the effects of the pandemic make this fundraising effort for Symphony Ball 2022 even more important,” said Renée Metcalf, the planning committee’s representative from the CSOA Board of Trustees, on which she serves as treasurer. “The musicians are so ready to perform for ticket-buying customers, driving performance revenues to strong levels, but past missed performances are missed revenue opportunities forever.”

With this background in mind, “our patrons and donors need to continue to generously support this world-class artistic body, and 2022 will require that at the highest levels,” Metcalf said. The ultimate mark of success would be for Symphony Ball to not only meet, but exceed, its fundraising goal of $1,200,000 in support of CSOA programs. “I am counting on the wonderful city of Chicago to do just that.”

For members of the Women’s Board, planning this season’s Symphony Ball via committee, rather than having one or two volunteers chair the event, provides a meaningful way to bring the volunteer group together again after a long stretch of all-virtual activities. Shelley Ochab, who was one of the original Women’s Board members when it was formed in 2009, participated in a similar planning committee that year. “I made a lot of good friends — people that I didn’t know before — who are still good friends, during that time,” said Ochab. “Being away from each other now for two years… we’re hoping to spark some of that same feeling that we had when the Women’s Board was founded.”

For patrons who are new to Symphony Ball, the April event offers an accessible introduction to the annual gala. “We’re trying to create a feeling of inclusion, an experience that’s going to be fun for everybody,” said Feldman. “Our goal is to have every one of our guests leave with a smile at the end of the night.” Ochab added that she hopes first-time attendees will enjoy themselves enough to return for the next Symphony Ball in fall of 2022, which will kick off the final season of Riccardo Muti’s tenure as Zell Music Director.

Supporters of Symphony Ball may purchase individual gala tickets, which begin at $1,000, or reserve an entire table. Proceeds from this fundraising event provide essential support for a wide range of CSOA programs, including performances at Symphony Center, educational resources for teachers and students, training opportunities for young musicians and free concerts across the Chicago community. Visit cso.org/symphonyball to find information on donor benefits and to make a reservation.

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