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Deborah Rutter, after a concert during the CSO's 2014 Winter Tour.

Deborah Rutter, the current president for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, will be leaving her position at the end of the 2013/14 season for a wonderful opportunity to become the president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. During her tenure as the CSOA’s president, Rutter encompassed the ideals of Citizen Musicianship. This was present in her desire to bring more diverse audiences to enjoy performances at Orchestra Hall, and her dedication to bringing music and music education to communities across the city of Chicago. To learn more about Rutter’s journey and accomplishments at the CSOA, please continue reading.

Chicago bids a fond farewell to an exceptional leader today. Deborah F. Rutter, the president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, is leaving her position at the CSOA for an incredible opportunity to become the president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. There she will take with her the dedication and passionate leadership that the CSOA has benefitted from since the beginning of her tenure in 2003. While in Chicago, Rutter brought great change to the CSOA, including innovative programming for the orchestra, and a focus on expanding the organization’s community engagement programs. Rutter’s commitment to engaging Chicagoans through exceptional performances by the CSO and educational programming throughout the city is a testament to her embodiment of Citizen Musicianship, and there is no doubt that her extraordinary leadership will be missed.

During her eleven-year tenure as the president of the CSOA, Rutter accomplished one of her many ambitious goals for the organization: to bring the art form of classical music to even broader audiences. She accomplished this in numerous ways, most notably by campaigning for new programming, including: Beyond the Score, an educational and in-depth look at the history of an important work of music that combines visual elements with live actors and the music of the composer being featured; MusicNOW, a contemporary series at the Harris Theater featuring works of Composers-In-Residence Anna Clyne and Mason Bates; CSO at the Movies, where the orchestra performs film scores live as movies are screened; Afterwork Masterworks, an abridged early-evening performance of certain subscription programs. Each of these programs is an example of Rutter’s determination to broaden the audiences that attend concerts at Orchestra Hall, and a demonstration of her ability as a true Citizen Musician to use the power of music to create community.

The appointment of Maestro Riccardo Muti as the Orchestra’s tenth music director and renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma as the first Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant are two key actions demonstrating Rutter’s leadership. In collaboration, Muti and Ma have ushered in a new era of exceptional artistry and unprecedented musical connections by the CSOA, engaging audiences at Orchestra Hall and students from Chicago Public Schools alike.

Rutter, in her desire to engage community members across the city of Chicago, also pushed to provide citywide musical celebrations, such as 2007’s Silk Road Chicago and 2012’s Keys to the City Piano Festival. In addition to these citywide festivals, the Orchestra also presents annual festivals at Symphony Center, including the Rivers Festival and the Truth to Power Festival. Each of these festivals featured collaborations with a broad range of community partners, including Chicago Public School students. “I believe,” said Rutter, “that an institution like an orchestra needs to be really firmly, deeply rooted in its community.”

Rutter’s leadership also brought about the reinvigoration of the CSOA’s educational programming with the establishment of the Institute for Learning, Access and Training in 2008, building on existing programming and also launching several new initiatives. The Institute engages more than 200,000 people across the broadest possible socioeconomic and ethnic spectrum each year with a variety of educational and training programs, including: the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, a training orchestra for young professional musicians; family and school concerts such as the Once Upon a Symphony and Very Special Promenades series; and programming for at-risk and incarcerated youth, in collaboration with a diverse group of partners including the U.K.-based Music in Prisons, Carnegie Hall’s Lullaby Project, and Storycatchers Theater.

In 2011, the Institute launched the Citizen Musician Initiative – developed in collaboration with Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant Yo-Yo Ma – which seeks to sustain and expand the role of music making in civic and cultural life. Musicians of the CSO regularly practice Citizen Musicianship, which can be seen outside the concert hall with community performances in the city. The musicians also participate in Citizen Musician activities while on tour, which can include masterclasses and free community performances. The initiative also inspired the launch of the Citizen Musician Fellowship program within the Civic Orchestra, which seeks to give the young musicians training in artistic development, Citizen Musicianship, entrepreneurship, and professional development. Ma, who works closely with the Fellows, reflects on his work with Rutter. “I feel grateful and privileged to have had the opportunity to work with Deborah at the CSOA over the last five years. Through her leadership and unwavering commitment, Deborah has not only reinforced the CSO’s musical and cultural importance, but she also has helped to strengthen it as an institution.”

Recently, at the end of the 2013/14 season, the CSOA received two transformational gifts: one from the Zell Family Foundation, naming the CSO Music Director position in perpetuity, and one from the Negaunee Foundation, endowing the Institute for Learning, Access and Training as the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in perpetuity. As Jay Henderson, the CSOA’s board chairman states, “When Deborah Rutter became president of the CSOA eleven years ago, she brought with her a commitment and passion for music education, which matched the Negaunee Foundation’s focus on early childhood education. Without Deborah’s efforts and passion, we might not have developed the Institute to where it stands today, let alone where it will go in the future.” Thanks to her leadership and dedication, the Negaunee Music Institute will continue to thrive and bring the gift of music to communities throughout Chicagoland.

Much of Rutter’s success can be attributed to her persistence, but also to her strong belief that classical music holds a place in society. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Rutter expresses that belief. “At my core,” says Rutter, “I believe in this art form, and I believe in the live performance experience. We are a living, breathing arts organization.” Although she will be moving on to a new organization, Rutter has instilled her beliefs and passion into the organization, ensuring that it will continue to thrive after her departure. Through her values and accomplishments, Rutter truly embodies the characteristics of a Citizen Musician. We at the CSOA will forever be grateful to Rutter’s leadership and commitment to this organization, and we wish her a lifetime of success and happiness.

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