Carol Sonnenschein’s love of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which she calls “one of the joys of my life,” began as a child when she attended concerts with her mother. She recalls hearing the Orchestra conducted by music directors Rafael Kubelík (1950-1953), Fritz Reiner (1953-1962) and Jean Martinon (1963-1968), as well as witnessing the early years of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, established in 1957 by Margaret Hillis at Reiner’s invitation.

Carol’s late husband, Leo Sadow, shared her passion for music, and they attended concerts together during the tenures of music directors Sir Georg Solti (1969-1991) and Daniel Barenboim (1991-2006), as well as that of Bernard Haitink, principal conductor (2006-2010) between the Barenboim and Muti years.

Carol serves as a director of the Walter E. Heller Foundation, established by her aunt, which has generously supported many artistic projects of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association and provided the funds to name the recording studio at Symphony Center. The foundation also supports Lyric Opera of Chicago, Joffrey Ballet, Grant Park Music Festival and Lurie Children’s Hospital. In addition to her role with the foundation and a career in educational psychology, Carol is a member of the League of the CSOA and has been a CSO subscriber and donor for many years.

In one of her most memorable experiences with the CSO, Carol traveled with Leo on a Patron Tour to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Moscow, Vienna and Budapest in 1990. Led by Solti, the tour marked the Orchestra’s first visits to Russia and Hungary. In Russia, Carol remembers young people “storming the music venue as if it were a rock concert” in their eagerness to hear the world-renowned CSO.

Audiences were similarly “enraptured” by the CSO’s performance in Vienna. One local patron, seated next to Carol, shared with her a moment of deep appreciation for music that transcended the language barriers between them.

At home in Chicago, many of Carol’s favorite concerts have featured the Chicago Symphony Chorus performing with the Orchestra. “I adore the Chorus,” she says. Several highlights include Verdi’s Requiem and concert performances of Italian operas under Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti, as well as Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.

Like many music lovers, Carol eagerly looks forward to the day when live concerts will return to Orchestra Hall. “I listen to music all the time, but there is something special about being there, enjoying it with other people,” she says. She considers the CSO “food for the soul” and a reason to be proud of Chicago. “The CSO puts Chicago on the map,” she says. “It is my symphony and my city.”

TOP: Carol Sonnenschein | Photo courtesy of subject