James Borkman served as president of the Overture Council (OC), the CSOA’s young professionals’ group, from 2011–2013. A ten-year CSO subscriber, he serves as Deputy Chief Counsel for City Clerk Susana Mendoza. Originally from southern California, James is a tour guide for WalkChicago Tours and is an official Chicago Greeter®. He is an avid architecture fan, foodie, and has worked on nearly fifteen political campaigns since moving to Chicago in 2005.
What inspired your love of classical music?
I got hooked on classical music as a teenager. When I was fifteen, my mom gave me a CD of Mozart piano concertos. I was addicted to his Piano Concerto no. 20. Later, my tastes changed. Now, I find myself listening to Elgar, Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky, and Sibelius.
What was it like leading the Overture Council?
The OC provides access to young professionals who want to learn about, or just enjoy, the orchestral experience. And while concert attendance is important, we want to create a complete, engaging experience. Paul Gilkerson, the first OC President, had done an incredible job of getting people involved. He had also worked to get the CSO musicians deeply engaged with the group. I worked to build on that foundation. I focused on getting the membership engaged with projects and tasks. I was fortunate during my term to be supported by Jessica Erickson, CSOA Senior Donor Engagement Manager. With the help of the CSOA staff, Jessica and I focused on creating extracurricular activities designed to help people engage more deeply and discover their role in the CSO family. Jessica is responsible for so much of our success. She is our strongest advocate, ally, and a guiding force. I enjoyed working with her and we were able to accomplish a lot together.
What are you most proud of from your term?
I’m probably most proud of working with Paul and the CSO staff to establish the guiding principles of the Overture Council. I am also proud of working to develop “The Graduation Project,” an identifiable path for young professionals to join the orchestra family and grow their relationship with the CSO.
Another initiative I’m proud of, even though we’re not a fundraising group, is establishing the earliest iterations of what may become an annual event to support the Civic Orchestra.
What makes the OC and Civic’s relationship so special?
Young professionals and young musicians have a lot in common; we both seek to enhance audience development and increase exposure to music. It is important to me that the OC supports musicians’ professional development by teaching skills that can further their professional success. For example,
Civic musicians recently worked alongside the OC to help with a Civic-oriented event. We had four Civic musicians serve as interns. They helped brainstorm, organize, plan, and execute the event. As a result
of this experience, one musician used her event-planning experience to build an intimate recital series integrating diverse arts and media. That’s the kind of return on investment the OC believes makes a real difference.
Any advice for those looking to get involved?
There is a place for everybody in the CSO family. The OC family happens to engage young professionals, but you don’t have to start there. Whether you want to volunteer, donate, or meet musicians, you can find a home at the CSO.