When asked how her love of music began, Nicole Lehman recalls the city where she was born and raised: Paris, France. With a father who played the violin and a quality musical education in school, Nicole embraced music as a treasured part of her life from an early age. In one of her fondest musical memories, she and her schoolmates were invited to visit their music teacher at home – only to discover that the teacher lived in the former home of composer Frédéric Chopin.

After moving to Chicago as a young adult, Nicole was introduced to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra when a co-worker offered her tickets to a concert. “I totally fell in love,” she recalls. “My first entrance to the CSO was magic. I loved the quiet elegance, the beauty of the premises; everybody was so wonderful from the start.”

That magic has never worn off; today, Nicole has been a CSO subscriber for more than 40 years. Among her favorite performances have been those featuring the works of Beethoven, particularly his symphonies and Violin Concerto — a piece that her father used to play at home. Another highlight was a “magnificent” concert performance of Verdi’s Aida in June 2019, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and an international cast conducted by Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti.

In addition to attending CSO concerts regularly, Nicole is a longtime patron of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the CSO’s ensemble for young professional musicians. She enjoys how Civic concerts introduce her to music by modern composers, alongside the traditional masterworks that make up the group’s repertoire. These young musicians are “terrific,” she says.

Beyond her dedication as a subscriber, Nicole generously supports both the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association Annual Fund and the Civic Orchestra, as well as being a member of the Theodore Thomas Society, the CSOA’s group for planned-giving donors. When asked what inspires her support as a donor, she explains, “It gives me a feeling of pleasure, safety and love every time I walk through the front door of [Orchestra Hall]. … I wanted to do what I could, and I wanted to be there as much as possible.”

While live concerts are on hold during the pandemic, Nicole feels grateful for the CSOA’s efforts to keep in touch with donors and patrons. “I feel like I’m a cherished member of the CSO, and thank God for that. During this difficult time, you need to have something that you can hang on to,” she says. Looking ahead to better days, she adds, “The CSO is a haven. When you’re there, you don’t feel anxiety, you don’t feel scared; you feel so comfortable, loved and happy. It’s something that I hope to continue doing for a long, long time.”

TOP: Nicole Lehman, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association donor and Theodore Thomas Society member, holds a CSO-themed mask. | Photo: courtesy of the subject