Barbara Levin has been a subscriber to the CSO for fifty years and a donor for more than thirty years. An alumna of Northwestern University, she obtained a second degree and became a computer programming analyst and medical billing specialist in the 1970s and ’80s. Barbara, born and raised in Chicago, lives in the city with her significant other Jay, and enjoys time with her grandchildren, who play a wide array of instruments including piano, flute, and violin.
What initially drew you to the CSO?
I don’t remember a time where I was ever unaware of the CSO. I didn’t attend as a school child, but the Orchestra, and classical music, has certainly been a fixture of my past. My brother and I took piano lessons as children, and every Sunday the entire family would listen to classical recordings together. In my teens, we would listen to some klezmer, and then folk music became very popular. But I was twenty-nine when I first started coming to the CSO. I grew up in Chicago and started attending as part of a group of three young couples—we were all neighbors and shared a ten-seat subscription. As time went on, we bought our own subscription. During the eight years my family lived in Rockford, Illinois, we drove in for concerts through the rain, snowstorms, and traffic jams.
How do you think the Orchestra has grown and changed over the years?
The Orchestra has changed a lot since I started attending concerts. One thing that has stayed consistent is that it’s always been so professional. Nowadays, it is very interesting and wonderful to see so many women in the Orchestra, especially in the strings section. It also seems to be a younger orchestra than in past years. I think Muti is doing a wonderful job drawing orchestra members and soloists to the CSO. There have been so many soloists I hadn’t heard of before, and hearing orchestra members featured as soloists is always such a treat.
Any favorite concert memories?
It’s so hard for me to choose a favorite concert or CSO experience. I just wind up with good feelings about all of it—the music, the concert experience, the repertoire. I know hearing the CSO perform Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony was a real highlight—it’s one of my favorite pieces. I just love the way Beethoven’s music resounds. The second movement of that symphony is so heartfelt. The fact that he overcame his increasing deafness to compose something like that really speaks out in the piece. There’s a real clarity to it.
How do you choose your subscription each year?
While I will occasionally change concerts to hear specific programs or artists not offered on my series, or to avoid Chicago winter weather, I enjoy the experience of being presented with varying repertoire. I subscribe sometimes having a surprise but it’s never disappointing.
What’s the best part about being a CSO subscriber?
The best part of subscribing for me is my predictable seat and the experience that seat gives me. I’m in Row B on the main floor. My hearing is no longer perfect, and I like to really feel the music coming off the stage. And in a seat that close up, you really can! It’s a real treat to see the conductor’s expressions and be under the fingers of pianists when the repertoire features that instrument. Seeing soloists up close is always very fun. Over the years, I’ve been able to find the perfect seat for me.
What inspired you to donate to the CSO during your fiftieth subscription year?
I love the CSO and this just seemed like an appropriate way to celebrate fifty years of wonderful concerts and music.