Mimi Duginger, a Chicago Symphony Orchestra trustee, also is president of The League of the CSOA. A group of dedicated men and women, The League promotes an appreciation of symphonic music, encourages a commitment to music education and raises funds for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

What led you to become a music teacher?

There are two major music moments in my life that inspired me to become a school music teacher.  I had a wonderful band director throughout elementary and high school who really influenced me, not only during the school years, but into my career as a music teacher. In the third grade, this band director started me on the flute, which I played throughout my schooling.

Our director really pushed my ensemble and gave us a lot of confidence that we could perform well.  For example, our small school in Middletown, Ill., went to a performance competition in Quincy and performed Beethoven’s Egmont Overture.  Our band received rave compliments for its performance — it is still talked about today!  Several of my fellow classmates and I still keep in touch with one another, as well as our band director, and this experience is still remembered by all involved. Several of those same classmates became music teachers.

Another major musical influencer was my mother, who played and taught the organ and piano. She started my brother and me on the piano at an early age. There was always music in the home.

Describe a moment when you witnessed how music changed the life of a student.

One of the projects that I worked on was planning and organizing the annual musicals for kindergarten through third graders.  An example that stands out in my mind is the year that I was working with the second and third graders on a musical about cats and dogs. All the teachers worked hard to make certain that every child in the class had a part and participated in the musical, whether a speaking part or a solo or some other special moment. There was a child named David who had cerebral palsy and was in a wheelchair. David’s teacher’s aide figured out a way to affix his wheelchair with a dog’s tail to which he was able to spin his chair in such a way that it looked like he was trying to catch his tail. All his classmates loved it and loved that David’s part was so cool, which made the entire musical a special moment during their school year.

As a music teacher, what did you hope your students would get out of an education in the arts?

I wanted to make sure that students grew up to be lifelong audience members.  I knew not all the children could be professional musicians, so I focused on encouraging them to keep music in their lives forever — one way being as an audience member.

How has your education in music created connections with other people?

There are so many! For 25 years, I would bring my third graders to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the youth concerts. It was the highlight of the year for my students. They would dress up, come downtown and have a bag lunch at the park. We would invite the parents who worked downtown to join us for the bag lunch — it was such a bonding time. One year, my school had the opportunity to go backstage and meet Duain Wolfe [CSO chorus director] and the guest conductor of that particular concert!

Share your love of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Chicagoland’s children! The CSO is looking for passionate men and women to prepare elementary school students for a rewarding experience at the CSO’s School Concerts.

Please contact the Volunteer Office at (312) 294-3170 or docents@cso.org

TOP: Mimi Duginger, president of the League of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, joins Jeff Alexander, CSO president, at a League event last season. | ©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2017